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Ovate agate vessel with two bands of cameos
Belle, Josias
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Belle, Josias

París, 1628, 1695

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Ovate agate vessel with two bands of cameos

s XVI - XVII century. Agate, Chalcedony, Enamel, Gold, Silver gilt. Room 079B

Vessel formed by two pieces of agate, fourteen cameos and three partly enamelled gold mounts. With an ovate profile, its body consists of two counterposed bell-shaped agate bowls joined by a strip of gold with mouldings and overlays of flowers and leaves enamelled in white, with touches of black and purple, red, blue, and translucent green. Alternating with these are upright ovals with ten incrusted cameos. The upper mount in the form of a lantern has a short flange with enamelled flowers and a dado forming the main body above it. Its structure and decoration are similar to the mount previously described, with four smaller cameos. The support ring is decorated with green oak leaves alternating with white leaves. There is a silversmith’s mark with the initials IB (I/Josias Belle) on the interior of the central mount.

According to the inventory of the Dauphin’s Treasure drawn up at La Granja de San Ildefonso in 1746, this piece had a finial in the form of a head modelled in the round, which had already gone missing after the looting during the Peninsular War. In 1839, the four cameos on the finial were described as representing Galba or Vespasian, an unidentified figure, the Roman Lucretia, and Cleopatra. The second of these disappeared at an uncertain date, possibly in the robbery of 1918, and was replaced in 1944 by a cameo with a female head from one of the vessels stolen in 1918. 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, HF0835/3.

Verlet suggested the authorship of Josias Belle in 1963, citing parallels between vessels O43 and O44 of the Dauphin’s Treasure and other pieces in the Louvre, but it was not until 1998 that the hallmark was positively identified by Bimbenet-Privat. Josias Belle (1628-1695), the silversmith of King Louis XIV, became a master in 1681 by order of the monarch. His name appears frequently in “Les Comptes des Bâtiments du Roi” as the maker of mounts for hardstone vessels, particularly frames for cameos, such as the large Roman cameo sold by the monks of Saint-Epure de Toul to the King in 1684, and now preserved at the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris.

Related to vessel O36 and others in both the Prado and the Louvre, the closest iconographic sources of this piece are the designs of the decorators of the court of Louis XIV under the direction of Charles Lebrun, such as Sébastien Le Clerc (1637-1714), an engraver and draughtsman under the king’s patronage, whose drawings are enriched with borders that combine leaf motifs with sinuous patterns of curved ribbons. The existence of a general fashion is evidently not enough to explain the uniform similarity between the Paris and Madrid vessels. This makes it feasible that the silversmiths of the King and the Dauphin may have been the same, working under the coordination of a designer who could have been Berain, Le Clerc, or another of those mentioned (L. Arbeteta, in press).

Technical data

Inventory number
Belle, Josias
Ovate agate vessel with two bands of cameos
s XVI - XVII century (Vessel); Ca. 1680 (Adornment)
Enamelled; Carved
Agate; Chalcedony; Enamel; Gold; Silver gilt
Height: 22.8 cm.; Width: 10.2 cm.; Base/bottom: 10.9 cm.; Weight: 589 g.; Diameter of the base: 6.6 cm.
Tesoro del Delfín
Royal Collection

Bibliography +

Angulo Íñiguez, Diego, Catálogo de las Alhajas del Delfín, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1989 (ed.rev), pp. 71-73.

Cruz Valdovinos, Jose Manuel, Plateria Europea en España 1300-1700, Fundacion Hispano, Madrid, 1997, pp. 368-370.

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. 285-287.

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. 29.

Inv. Felipe V, La Granja, Tesoro del Delfín, 1746. Núm. 99.

Inv. Gabinete Historia Natural, 1776. Núm. 22.
Vaso...figura de perfumador...

Inv. Real Museo, 1857. Núm. 22.
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 [...] 22. Otro vaso de dos pedazos en forma y figura de perfumador de piedra Ágata, tiene el pie y remate guarnecido, y tambien el cuerpo donde unen los dos pedazosde plata dorada con sus molduras y filetes sobrepuestos en el pie, cuerpo y remate de diferentes piezas de oro, de hojas, de flores esmaltadas lo las de ello de medio relieve de azul, blanco, encarnado y verde: en dicho cuerpo y remate quince Camafeos incluso el de una cabeza puesta en el remate, regulado en dos onzas y media de oro, y seis onzas de plata, poco mas o menos.

Exhibitions +

Platería europea en España
15.10.1997 - 15.12.1997

Location +

Room 079B (On Display)

Update date: 24-06-2020 | Registry created on 26-11-2015

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