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Octagonal coffer covered in enamelled gold with engravings and cameos
Delabarre, Pierre (Circle of)
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Delabarre, Pierre (Circle of)

Octagonal coffer covered in enamelled gold with engravings and cameos

1630 - 1670. Agate, Amethyst, Cowry, Enamel, Garnet, Bloodstone, Iron, Lapis lazuli, Silver gilt, Prasiolite, Sardonyx, Gold gilt. Room 079B

The coffer is a key item in any study of French silverware and European collecting. Initially part of Cardinal Mazarin’s collection, on his death it was sold at auction, subsequently being acquired by the Grand Dauphin. The gold crafting links this piece to a group of works associated with the so-called Maestro of Dragons, Pierre Delabarre, a Parisian silversmith who qualified as a master craftsman in 1625. The entire surface of the eight faces is richly decorated by a band of enamelled gold, with a design of pointed leaves, interwoven and concave, from which smaller leaves emerge with threaded beads. The enamels are highly varied in colour, ranging from white to black through blues, lilac, ochre and various shades of green. Scattered among the floral motifs are 152 engravings and cameos inlaid in ovals with enamelled garlands.

The coffer has 152 cameos and engravings, whose arrangement probably follows a programme with political intentions. The cameos are mainly 16th century Italian, whereas virtually all the engravings are older. Apart from series lacking any particular significance – scenes of lovers, fauns and minor figures – and the usual male and female heads deriving from various sources, there are depictions of the major classical deities, such as Jupiter on Olympus, Minerva, Apollo with his lyre and Helios, the sun god. Apollo and Marsyas feature frequently, and also appear on the inside of the coffer. Diana the huntress, like the references to Bacchus, conjures up the world of forests and wine. Love and beauty are also present in the engraving of a dolphin, the symbol of loyal friendship unto death, and the motto: Amoris Habes Pignus; Love and Psyche, Cupid; Venus listening to complaints about Cupid; the Three Graces and Mars. These contrast with scenes from the underworld: Vulcan working at his forge, Pluto with Cybele and Proserpina. There are also heroes such as Hercules, depicted twice, possibly in reference to the Gallic Hercules, and a third with the Nemean lion. Alexander appears, deified, and David, the hero of Judeo-Christian tradition, vanquishing a more powerful enemy. Scipio Africanus and Charles V in the Tunisia expedition allude to military victories. Lucretia, Castor and Pollux, and Asclepius are among the other figures associated with human behaviour. Spirits of the theatre, winged spirits in various poses, representations of rivers such as the Tiber, and symbolic animals: references to the fables of the eagle and the tortoise, the stork and the lizard, etc. At the sides, two horizontal carnelian cameos showing a reclining woman and man, the latter with a cornucopia. Possibly belonging to the Christian tradition are three veiled women, perhaps the three Marys, as well as a group of three identical bearded faces, a possible representation of the Trinity, common at the end of the 15th century and later considered heretical.

The state of the work in the 19th century can be seen through the photography of Juan Laurent y Minier, "Vase agate sardoine, montures d’or avec émaux et pierreries, XVIe siècle, règne de Henri II", c. 1879, Museo del Prado, HF0835/16 (L. Arbeteta, in press).

Technical data

Related artworks

Case for octagonal coffer with engraving and cameos
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Octagonal coffer with engraving and cameos
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Inventory number
Delabarre, Pierre (Circle of)
Octagonal coffer covered in enamelled gold with engravings and cameos
1630 - 1670
Gilded; Carving / A carved sculpture; Enamelled; Carved
Agate; Amethyst; Cowry; Enamel; Garnet; Bloodstone; Iron; Lapis lazuli; Silver gilt; Prasiolite; Sardonyx; Gold gilt
Height: 12.5 cm.; Width: 19.8 cm.; Base/bottom: 12.8 cm.; Weight: 1169 g.
Tesoro del Delfín
Royal Collection

Bibliography +

Alcouffe, Daniel, The Collection of Cardinal Mazarin's Gems, The Burlington magazine, The Burlington Magazine Publications Ltd., 1974, pp. 514, 516-526.

Gil, Cristina, El Tesoro: Una maravilla barroca perdida en el Museo del Prado, 1985/02/24, pp. 14-16.

Departamento Didáctico-Pedagógico, Alhajas del Delfín, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1989, pp. 1-8.

Angulo Íñiguez, Diego, Catálogo de las Alhajas del Delfín, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1989 (ed.rev), pp. 64-69.

Arbeteta Mira, Letizia, Nuevas noticias sobre las 'Alhajas del Delfín' (II), Boletín del Museo del Prado, 13, 1992, pp. 21-36.

Castellucio, Stéphane, Le partage de la prestigieuse collection du Grand Dauphin. La Part de Philippe D'Espagne, 2000, pp. 67.

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. 346-347.

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

Other inventories +

Agates, cristaux, procelaines, bronzes, et autres curiositez qui sont dans le Cabinet de Monseigneur le Dauphin a Versailles. Núm. 9.
Coffre d'acier à huit pans en forme de tombeau [...] haut de quatre pouces et demi, long de sept pouces et demi, et large de quatre pouces et demi

Inv. Felipe V, La Granja, Tesoro del Delfín, 1746. Núm. 130.

Inv. Gabinete Historia Natural, 1776. Núm. 12.
Cofre ochavado

Exhibitions +

El Real Alcazar de Madrid
14.09.1994 - 13.11.1994

Location +

Room 079B (On Display)

Update date: 10-03-2020 | Registry created on 26-11-2015

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