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Sardonyx ewer
Hellenistic workshop
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Hellenistic workshop


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Sardonyx ewer

323 a.C. - 321 a.C.. Ágata sardónice. Room 079B

This was the most valuable object in the whole of the Grand Dauphin’s collection. Its mounting is now lost. It is a monolithic piece in the form of a jug with a bell-shaped body and tall neck that opens out in three everted gadroons forming a trefoil mouth. The handle, carved in the same block, ascends straight from the shoulder of the body to the edge of the mouth, where it curves slightly. A very schematic lanceolate motif appears at the base of the handle, which is carved with straight edges. This is a magnificent piece of agate of the variety traditionally called sardonyx. Although ancient, its volumes and proportions are not classical, though certain details might seem to indicate the contrary, such as the gadrooning at the end of the neck, the trefoil mouth and the schematic lanceolate palmette at the base of the handle. It may have been slightly retouched and repolished in addition to the manipulation necessary for adding the mounts.

This was the object that opened the 1689 inventory of the Cabinet of Versailles, and the most valuable piece in the Dauphin’s collection. Other ancient vessels at the Louvre originating in the royal collection testify to the interest in such objects of both Louis XIV and his son. Among the surviving pieces from Philip V’s inheritance at the Prado, there are a number of vessels made from ancient stones, such as O3, O7, O16, O43, O44, O46, O47, O48 and possibly O6. Some of the ancient sardonyx vessels at the Louvre have similar volumes, such as MR 443, MR 115, MR 116 and MR 133. Louis XIV had various contacts in the Orient, and especially in Constantinople (Istanbul), such as the Parisian jeweller Sylvestre Base, and also Antoine Galland (1646-1715), whom he commissioned to buy medals, agate vases and other curiosities. It is likely, although supporting documentation is lacking, that his son, the Dauphin, also benefited from these dispatches.

The ewer had a flat agate lid with three silver gilt mounts and a finial formed by a female bust with an incrusted ruby in the head. These were stolen in 1918, like the mount on the base. Their form and volume can be appreciated from the case and seen in historic photographs. These vanished mounts were made in the late 17th or early 18th century, later than the 1689 Versailles inventory. Of the Parisian type, they were similar to those of other pieces in the Dauphin’s Treasure, such as the rock crystal dish with an engraved eagle, O72, and the pair of lapis lazuli salvers, O60 and O61, which makes it probable that the mount on the base had silversmith’s marks. As for the female bust that crowned the lid, it recalls similar finials on other pieces at the Prado, like those on the tazzas with cameos (O35 and the one which disappeared in 1815, I1416), which Arbeteta attributed to the Milanese workshop of the Miseroni family. Cup O7 also has a female bust for a finial. This type of adornment was to the taste of the Italian workshops, especially in Venice and Milan, where it was produced in abundance. 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, HF0835/22 (L. Arbeteta, in press).

Technical data

Related artworks

Case for sardonyx ewer
Cloth, Leather, Wood, Metal, 1690 - 1711
Jarro de sardónice
Albumen on photographic paper, Ca. 1863
Inventory number
Hellenistic workshop
Sardonyx ewer
323 a.C. - 321 a.C.
Chased; Carved
Ágata sardónice
Height: 17.5 cm.; Width: 10 cm.; Base/bottom: 9.5 cm.; Weight: 519 g.; Diameter of the base: 5.8 cm.
Tesoro del Delfín
Royal Collection

Bibliography +

Angulo Íñiguez, Diego, Catálogo de las Alhajas del Delfín, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1989 (ed.rev), pp. 58.

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. 283-284.

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

Other inventories +

Inv. Felipe V, La Granja, Tesoro del Delfín, 1746. Núm. 98.

Inv. Gabinete Historia Natural, 1776. Núm. 52.
Otro Jarro con su tapa, y asa de piedra Agata onis, en la tapa una negrilla de medio cuerpo de la piedra misma; guarnezida dha tapa, voca, parte del asa, y pie, con guarnicion de oro, la del pie agallonado, y tallado con filetes; la de la voca, y tapa en forma igual con una concha, y una hoja, qe. hecha sobre el asa, en la caveza de la negrilla un engarze con un rubi de grano y medio de area; regulado en dos onzas de oro poco mas o menso, que todo con la piedra y caja de dho vaso vale 6.590...32.

Inv. Real Museo, 1857. Núm. 52.
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 [...] 52. Otro jarro con su tapa y asa de piedra Ágata Ónice en la tapa, una negrilla de medio cuerpo de la piedra misma, guarnecida dicha tapa, boca, parte de la asa y pie con guarnicion de oro; la del pie agallonado y tallado con filetes; la de la boca y tapa en forma igual con una concha y una hoja, que hecha sobre el asa, en la cabeza de la negrilla un engarce con un rubí de grano y medio de area, regulado en dos onzas de oro poco mas o menos.

There are no temporary exhibitions related to this work

Location +

Room 079B (On Display)

Update date: 09-07-2020 | Registry created on 26-11-2015

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