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Large vase in the shape of a dragon or ''caquesseitão''
Workshop of the Sarachi ?
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Workshop of the Sarachi ?

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Large vase in the shape of a dragon or ''caquesseitão''

1590 - 1620. Rock crystal / Hyaline quartz, Enamel, Gold.
Room 079B

A vessel formed by various pieces of rock crystal joined together by ten enamelled gold mounts. It represents a fantastical animal with short membranous wings, a prolonged neck and an elongated body, carved in a single piece. It has feathers or scales, two small breasts, a row of spikes along the back, and a scaly curling tail. Standing on large bird’s feet, it has a small horn on its head, and its tongue protrudes from its open jaws, forming a kind of projecting bowl. The interior is reached through an upper oval aperture with a lid decorated by a gold mount with three parallel bands, apparently made to conceal a crack.

Called a “dragon” in the old inventories, this creature corresponds to the image of an animal, the caquesseitão, supposedly found in Sumatra, according to the accounts of Portuguese travellers. Hollowing out the interior involved a considerable technical effort, justifiable only if it was intended to be used as a container. However, the design of the body does not seem functional for pouring water or wine, while the prolongation of the jaws into a kind of spout recalls the shape of oil lamps, suggesting that it might be some kind of lighting apparatus. If it were possible to use it as a lamp or perfume burner, it would come to life and acquire a new conceptual sense. There are examples of monstrous masks with human faces used during the Renaissance as doors or windows. This practice can also be seen in other formats, in gardens like those of Bomarzo or Frascati and on façades like that of the Palazzo Zuccari, and even used as fireplaces.

The design of the mounts on the neck and tail is quite similar to those on vessels O90 and O91 at the Prado. Another similar piece in the form of a fantastical animal, originating in the collection of Cardinal Mazarino and attributed with reservations to the Sarachi workshop, is preserved at the Musée du Louvre, MR 324. However, its body is shorter, it has no wings, and it is decorated with less care. The mount on the lid is later and very different, as it corresponds to a style that appears in the repertories of models for goldsmiths, with clusters of pointed leaves accompanied by rows of seeds, all delimited by lines tooled into the metal and afterwards filled with enamel. The designs of Balthasar Lemercier, published in Paris in 1626, belong to this tendency, whose rapid spread can be appreciated in certain silver pieces like the set of royal insignias made for the funeral of Queen Christina of Holstein-Gottorp, the wife of Gustav Adolf of Sweden, upon her death in 1625. Attributed to Gillis Coyet the Younger, they are preserved at the Royal Armoury in Stockholm. There is another Vessel in the form of a dragon or caquesseitão in the Dauphin’s Treasure, O111, attributed to the Miseroni workshop.

Original state : Juan Laurent y Minier, “Drageoir, en forme d’oiseau chimérique, en cristal de roche taillé et gravé, montures d’or et émail, XVIe siècle, règne de Henri II”, c. 1879. Museo del Prado, HF0835/50.

Technical data

Related artworks

Vaso en forma de dragón o "caquesseitão"
Albumen on photographic paper, Ca. 1863
Clifford, Jane
Inventory number
Workshop of the Sarachi ?
Large vase in the shape of a dragon or ''caquesseitão''
1590 - 1620; Ca. 1626
Chased; Enamelled; Carved; Engraved
Rock crystal / Hyaline quartz; Enamel; Gold
Height: 23.2 cm; Width: 51 cm; Base/bottom: 24 cm; Weight: 1903 g; Ancho base: 11.5 cm; Bottom of the base: 14 cm
Tesoro del Delfín
Royal Collection

Bibliography +

Angulo Íñiguez, Diego, Catálogo de las Alhajas del Delfín, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1989 (ed.rev), pp. 176-177.

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. 319,320.

Nexon, Y., Topographie d´une collection d´art au XVII siècle: L´ Hôtel Ségnier, Studiolo, 8, 2010, pp. 82-83.

Arbeteta Mira, Letizia, 'Taller de los Sarachi (?). Vaso en forma de dragón o 'caquesseitão' En:, Arte transparente. La talla del cristal en el Renacimiento milanés., Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2015, pp. 132-135 n.17.

Azcue Brea,L. Simal López,M. Cardito,Y., 'La participación de piezas del Tesoro del Delfín del Museo del Pradoen la Exposición Histórico-Natural y Etnográfica' En:, Ministerio de Educación Cultura y Deporte, Madrid, 2017, pp. 295-308

Arbeteta, Leticia, 'Tesoro del delfín. Una herencia de la familia real francesa' En:, Los tesoros ocultos del Museo del Prado, Madrid, 2017, pp. 248-276.

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

Azcue Brea, Leticia, Rarezas y lujo para deslumbrar: el Tesoro del Delfín., Ars & Renovatio.Centro de Estudios de Arte del Renacimiento, 7, 2019, pp. 504-519.

Other inventories +

Inv. Real Museo, 1857. Núm. 129.
Alhajas y efectos preciosos que se hallaban colocados en el Gabinete de Historia natural y trasladados al Real Museo de Pintura y Escultura de S. M., en virtud de Rl. orden de 11 de Mayo de 1839 [...] 129. Una sierpe con su cabeza y cola enroscada, sus pies, asiento y dos alas todo de cristal de roca abierto en escamas y dos pechos, guarnecido el asiento, muslos, cola, pescuezo, alas y lomo de oro esmaltado de negro, azul, blanco, verde y rojo.

Inv. Felipe V, La Granja, 1734. Núm. 20.

Inv. Gabinete Historia Natural, 1776. Núm. 129.
Una Sierpe con su cabeza y cola enrroscada, sus pies asiento y dos alas todo de cristal de roca abierto con escamas y dos pechos, guarnezido el asiento, muslos, cola, pescuezo, alas y Lomo de oro esmaltado de negro azul, verde, blanco y rojo, vale 11.662...16.

Listado de objetos robados del Real Gabinete de Historia Natural en 1813 y devueltos en 1816. Núm. 129.
Una Sierpe con su caveza y cola enroscada, sus pies asiento y dos alas todo de cristal de roca, abierto en escamas y dos pechos, guarnecido el asiento, muslos, cola pescuezo, y lomo de oro, esmaltado de negro, azul, verde, blanco y rojo: ve. 11.662...16 [Conforme, esceptuando un pedacito qe. hay roto en una ala]

Inv. Felipe V, La Granja, Tesoro del Delfín, 1746. Núm. 116.
Un Dragon con pies, Alas, Caveza, y Cola y lomo separado que sirve de tapa todo de Christal de Roca, con once guarniciones de Color de oro Esmaltado, que de Caveza, a Cola tiene tercia, y trese dedos de largo, por la Caveza trece dedos de alto, y Caja de Tafilete encarnado.

Agates, cristaux, procelaines, bronzes, et autres curiositez qui sont dans le Cabinet de Monseigneur le Dauphin a Versailles. Núm. 20 C.
Numº 20 / Prix contant Pistoles 80 / Un grand Dragon ailé gravé en façon de plumes sur ses deux pattes d'oiseau liées de deux cercles d'or emaillé de noir et au bas dudit pied est un grand cercle d'or emaillé de noir, violet et verd, au col duquel est un cercle d'or emaillé de verd, noir et blaue, et á la queüe un autre cercle d'or emaillé de mesme comme aux aîles, avec son couvercle de deux pièces. haut de huit pouces, et long de dix huit. / Valeur 100

Exhibitions +

Transparent Art. Rock Crystal Carving in Renaissance Milan
14.10.2015 - 10.01.2016

Location +

Room 079B (On Display)

Update date: 30-04-2022 | Registry created on 02-12-2015

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