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Rock crystal ewer with Narcissus and Echo
Taller milanés; Taller parisino; Toutain, Richard (?)
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Taller milanés
Taller parisino
Toutain, Richard (?)

Rock crystal ewer with Narcissus and Echo

Ca. 1555. Rock crystal / Hyaline quartz, Enamel, Gold, Silver, Ruby Room 079B

The size and beauty of the mounts make this piece an outstanding work of the so-called “Fontainebleau School”, already described in the inventory of goods at the Château de Pau, made for Queen Jeanne III in 1561-1562, among the objects that made up the treasure of the kings of French Navarre. The inventory of her son Henry IV confirms its presence among the royal possessions, this time in Paris, in 1601. The body and mouth are of rock crystal, and the foot and handle of metal. On the handle are two figures sculpted in the round: a young man leaning over the mouth of the ewer, and a nymph. They represent the myth of Narcissus, with a possible emblematic reading in a moralising Christian vein. The work attains perfection when the ewer is filled and the boy appears to be transformed into a flower as he regards his image in the water, so bringing the myth to life.

The myth of Narcissus, related by Ovid in Book III of his Metamorphoses, alludes to the dangers of egolatry, and so constitutes a warning for princes and potentates. Narcissus, smitten by his own beauty, disdains those who love him. One such is the nymph Echo, who is condemned to repeat the ends of sounds and so is cruelly rejected. The young man falls in love with himself when he sees himself reflected in the waters of a spring, and is transformed by Nemesis, the goddess of vengeance, into a beautiful but odourless flower. An exemplum of pride and vanity, the myth admits a Christian allegorical reading which might have been suitable for the Calvinist court of French Navarre.

The female figure on the handle may represent the nymph Echo, with her arms crossed to denote impotence, and her mouth open in a scream as she discovers she has lost her voice. The lower part of the female body which completed the handle, stolen in 1918, consisted of a thick braid of interlaced serpents, probably an allusion to the soothsayer Tiresias, who cryptically warned Narcissus’ mother that he would enjoy a long life “as long as he never knows himself”.

The characteristics of this work allow us to attribute its mounts to the circle of the Toutain family of silversmiths, and it is thought it might be the work of Richard Toutain the Younger. The ewer rests on a flared gold foot with arabesques forming a network of interlaced white enamel bands on embedded black enamel. Appearing among them are children’s heads, also enamelled, and holes for setting rubies cut in oval cabochons. The rock crystal body, made in two pieces, is cut fairly thick, and adheres to the Milanese model of gadroons on the upper and lower parts with a broad central band delimited by mouldings. Arbeteta reported Alcouffe’s hypothesis, supported by Bimbenet-Privat, that the crystal was cut in France, and admitted this possibility without discarding its probable Milanese origin. The handle is inspired by models by Hans Vredeman de Vries, similar to those of the so-called “Fontainebleau School”.

The Museo del Prado has the photograph by Juan Laurent y Minier, Aiguière, en cristal de roche taillé, montures d’argent doré avec appliques d’or, émail et pierreries, XVIe. siècle, règne de Henri II , c. 1879. Museo del Prado, HF 835/046 (L. Arbeteta, in press).

Technical data

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Albumen on photographic paper, Ca. 1879
Jarro de cristal con Narciso y Eco
Gelatin / Collodion on photographic paper, Ca. 1879
Inventory number
O000077
Author
Taller milanés; Taller parisino; Toutain, Richard (?)
Title
Rock crystal ewer with Narcissus and Echo
Date
Ca. 1555; 1550
Technique
Chased; Gilded; Enamelled; Cast; Repoussé; Carved; Mounted / set
Medium
Rock crystal / Hyaline quartz; Enamel; Gold; Silver; Ruby
Dimension
Height: 41.5 cm.; Width: 16.6 cm.; Base/bottom: 14 cm.; Weight: 3308 g.; Diameter of the base: 8.4 cm.
Series
Tesoro del Delfín
Provenance
Collection of the Kings of Navarre (Jeanne d´Albret, 1562-1601; Fontainebleau, Henry IV). Collection of the Grand Dauphin (1601-1711). Spanish Royal Collection (Felipe V, 1711)

Bibliography +

Alcouffe, Daniel, 'Le collezioni francesi di gemme del XVI secolo', Arte illustrata, 59, octobre, 1974, pp. 264-276.

Bimbenet-Privat, Michèle, 'Une famille d'orfèvres parisiens: Les Toutain', Tomo 141. n.1, 1983, pp. 91-115.

Gil, Cristina, El Tesoro: Una maravilla barroca perdida en el Museo del Prado, Dominical del diario YA, 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. 122-123.

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

Bimbenet-Privat, Michele, L'Orfevrerie Parisienne de la Renaissance. Trésors Disperses, Centre Culturel du Panthéon, Paris, 1995, pp. 113.

Poulain, Dominique, 'Terre de Saintes' et 'Terre de Saint-Porchaire' En:, Reunion des Musées Nationaux, Paris, 1998, pp. 51-53.

Raulet, Sylvie, Cristal de Roche, Editions Assouline, Paris, 1999.

Castellucio, Stéphane, Le partage de la prestigieuse collection du Grand Dauphin. La Part de Philippe D'Espagne, 2000, pp. 56.

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. 162-165.

Castelluccio, Stéphane, ''Le cabinet de curiosités d'Henri IV à Fontainebleau'' En: Henri IV à Fontainebleau un temps de splendeur, Réunion des musées nationaux, París, 2010, pp. 195.

Arbeteta,L, 'El jarro de Narciso. Joya de la colección de Jeanne d'Albret' En:Pvlchrvm: scripta varia in honorem Mª Concepción García Gainza, Gobierno de Navarra. Universidad de Navarra, Pamplona, 2011, pp. 105-112.

Arbeteta, L, 'Richard Toutain. Aiguière en cristal de roche avec Narcisse et une sirène'. En:, Trésors Princiers: Richesses de la cour de Navarre au XVIe siècle, Reunión des musées nationaux-Grand Palais,, 2017, pp. 108-109. oeuvre non exposée..

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

Other inventories +

Inv. Gabinete Historia Natural, 1776. Núm. 114.
Agua manil grande...

Exhibitions +

Meta-painting. A Journey to the Idea of Art
15.11.2016 - 19.02.2017

Le Trésor de Navarre à Fontainebleau sous Henri IV
Fountainebleau
06.11.2010 - 28.02.2011

D´or et d´argent: l´orfèvrerie à la renaissance
París
15.09.1995 - 15.12.1995

Location +

Room 079B (On Display)

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

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