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Jade vessel in the form of a mask on four dolphins
Miseroni, Ottavio; Workshop of the Miseroni; Debourg, Michel
Close Continuar a ficha de la obra
Miseroni, Ottavio
1567
Workshop of the Miseroni
Debourg, Michel
1682

Jade vessel in the form of a mask on four dolphins

Ca. 1600. Silver gilt, Nephrite Room 079B

Vessel consisting of a piece of green nephrite carved in the form of an oil lamp. It repreents a fantastic mask with a wide open mouth, its eyebrows formed by leaves emerging from a double stalk that forms the handle. The round eyes, short nose and long moustaches frame gaping jaws with a rising protuberance visible inside. It rests on a base of silver gilt with friezes of acanthus leaves and gadroons, four volutes departing from the centre, and a small urn as a finial. On the exterior, four dolphins rest their heads while their tails form volutes supporting a laurel wreath. Although previously thought to be oriental, it is in fact European, like the silver foot fashioned in the taste of the Court at Versailles. The vessel is probably from the Prague period of Ottavio Miseroni, and can be categorised within the animist or vitalist movement that emerged in late Mannerism.

Distelberger believed this monstrous mask, a mixture of a sea shell and a lion’s head, to be the work of Ottavio Miseroni, together with another jade cup of about 1605 with a mount by Jan Vermeyen, also from the collection of Rudolf II, inv. 6846 at the Kunstkammer of the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. Even more abstract than the cup at the Prado, it recalls the form of a Roman oil lamp, in the style of the fantastical recreations of Enea Vico. The idea of the drinking vessel as a more or less anthropomorphic mask is not a new one. There are Mannerist works with this motif, as in a drawing by Giulio Romano at the British Museum for a covered bowl, where a face of Medusa serves as the cover and the handles are formed by serpents. In its animist phase, Mannerism employed male faces with enormously open mouths as frames for windows, doors and fireplaces, with famous examples at the Park of the Monsters in Bomarzo, near Viterbo, and at Frascati and other gardens. The use of masks with gaping jaws persisted for some time as an ornament for the spouts of metal and ceramic drinking vessels.

The design of the foot is similar in style to vessels O65 and O67 of the Dauphin’s Treasure, as well as to another gold vessel that was stolen (I-1414). Formed by three dolphins in similar positions, it is a frequent motif in Bérain’s projects for the ornamentation of gardens and fountains. They are also found on a porringer at the Louvre, OA 7757, made for the Grand Dauphin by Sebastian Leblond between 1690 and 1692. The handles of the bowl are formed by two leaping dolphins separated by rocailles. Inside is Louis’ personal monogram beneath the crown of the Dauphiné, also with dolphins on either side. This makes it likely that the ones on the vessel discussed here are not chance ornamentation but a sign identifying the owner. Le Brun also designed objects featuring dolphins with entwined tails, such as some andirons whose design is preserved in the Cabinet des Dessins of the Musée du Louvre, inv. 29551.

The 1689 Versailles inventory gives a detailed description of the foot of the vessel, a Parisian creation with a design very close to the projects of Charles Le Brun. It was made between 1684 and 1687, as is to be deduced from the charge mark (poinçon de charge) on the base and the discharge mark of the assay master (fermier) Antoine Etienne Ridereau, active between 1684 and 1687. Also, beneath a crown, there is a fleur-de-lys framing a D, and below that the initials MB, the mark of the silversmith Michel Debourg.

The Museo del Prado has the photograph by Juan Laurent y Minier, Untitled. c. 1879. Museo del Prado, HF0835/54 (L. Arbeteta, in press).

Technical data

Inventory number
O000066
Author
Miseroni, Ottavio; Workshop of the Miseroni; Debourg, Michel
Title
Jade vessel in the form of a mask on four dolphins
Date
Ca. 1600; 1684 - 1687
Technique
Chased; Cast; Carved
Medium
Silver gilt; Nephrite
Dimension
Height: 21.7 cm.; Width: 28.5 cm.; Base/bottom: 14.3 cm.; Weight: 2245 g.; Ancho base: 11.8 cm.; Bottom of the base: 14.6 cm.
Series
Tesoro del Delfín
Provenance
Royal Collection

Bibliography +

Angulo Íñiguez, Diego, Catálogo de las Alhajas del Delfín, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1989 (ed.rev), pp. 110.

Cruz Valdovinos, Jose Manuel, Plateria Europea en España 1300-1700, Fundacion Hispano, Madrid, 1997, pp. 365-367.

Arbeteta Mira, Letizia, El tesoro del Delfín: alhajas de Felipe V recibidas por herencia de su padre Luis, Gran Delfín de Francia, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2001, pp. 209-211.

Arbeteta, L. Azcue, L., El Tesoro del Delfín, Museo Nacional del Prado, 2018, 2018.

Other inventories +

Inv. Gabinete Historia Natural, 1776. Núm. 18.
VAso de piedra verdosa ...

Exhibitions +

Platería europea en España
Madrid
15.10.1997 - 15.12.1997

El Real Alcazar de Madrid
Madrid
14.09.1994 - 13.11.1994

Location +

Room 079B (On Display)

Update date: 05-06-2019 | Registry created on 02-12-2015

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