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Vase in the shape of a dragon or caquesseitão
Workshop of the Miseroni (?: Miseroni, Gasparo)
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Workshop of the Miseroni (?: Miseroni, Gasparo)

Vase in the shape of a dragon or caquesseitão

1550 - 1600. Rock crystal / Hyaline quartz.
Room 079B

This fabulous animal is made of three pieces of rock crystal. The top piece is a horned head with monstrous features resting on a long arched neck similar to that of a swan. It is set into a pear-shaped body with a cuirass-like front worked with scrolls and rows imitating precious stones. It also has short wings emerging from spirals and similar to those of bats. Its flexed and webbed feet are cut into the sides in high relief. The scaled body ends in a tail that wraps around itself. The animal, which seems to rest in the air, sits on a stem consisting of dolphins with interlaced tails. Their heads are on a foot decorated with waves. The upper piece can be removed to reveal a figurehead carved into the back with an open-mouthed oriental face. According to the inventory of pieces belonging to the Dauphin, which was drawn up in 1689, this piece had at least two gold adornments with black, red and violet enamel that may have been the same as those from another Dragon-shaped Vessel (O00112), as they are described in the same way. The result is a being of undetermined species, a mixture of serpent, mallard and dragon interpreted in a very peculiar language with considerable visual impact and a rather primitivistic appearance, as if it were the prototype for an entire series of cut-crystal hybrid animals of the sort that made the Sarachi’s workshop famous. And yet, this object differs from those known to have been made by that family, although certain details coincide. In 2001, Letizia Arbeteta attributed it, with considerable reservations, to the Miseronis’ workshop. Possibly the work of Gasparo Miseroni, who was active between 1550 and 1570, it resembles the monstrous figureheads with exaggeratedly open mouths later made by Ottavio and even later, by Dionysio Miseroni. The spirals from which the wings emerge appear on vessels attributed to the Miseronis’ workshop, including one at the Museo del Prado with snake-shaped figureheads and handles (O00101). The stem with interlaced dolphins appears in various works attributed to Gasparo Miseroni. The idea of an animal with flexed legs is also typical of the Miseronis and was employed in various ways over the course of its existence. As to the type of animal represented, the inventory of the French Crown’s furniture lists various vessels of this type, and even describes one that may be very similar to this one. While the dimensions are different, the appearance of this grotesque animal could correspond, not to the conventional image of a dragon, but instead, to what was known as caquesseitão in the early 17th century: a fabulous animal that the Portuguese saw in Sumatra in the 16th century. It is very similar to the examples that, according to historian Luis Castelo Lopes, represented that animal, although it lacks the line of spikes along its back that was considered one of its distinctive features.

This is one of the pieces in the Dauphin’s Treasure, a group of precious vessels from the sumptuous collection of Louis, Grand Dauphin of France, which were brought to Spain by his son and heir, Philip V, the first Spanish monarch from the Bourbon dynasty. Louis of France (1661-1711), was the son of Louis XIV and Marie Theresa of Austria. Influenced by his father, he began collecting at an early age, acquiring his works in a variety of manners, including gifts and purchases at auctions. Following the Dauphin’s death, Philip V (1683-1746) inherited a group of vessels, which were sent to Spain with their respective cases. In 1716, they were at the Alcázar in Madrid but were later moved to La Granja de San Ildefonso, where they were listed in the so-called Casa de las Alajas following Philip V’s death. In 1776, they were deposited in the Royal Cabinet of Natural History at the behest of Charles III, and they remained there until it was sacked by French troops in 1813. These works were returned two years later, although some were lost. The Dauphin’s Treasure entered the Royal Museum in 1839, but was again stolen in 1918. During the Spanish Civil war, these works were sent to Switzerland. When they were returned in 1939, one vessel was missing. They have been on exhibit at the Villanueva Building since then.

Arbeteta Mira, Letizia, 'Taller de los Miseroni. Vaso en forma de dragón o 'caquesseitão' En:. Arte transparente. La talla del cristal en el Renacimiento milanés., Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado, 2015, p.86-89 n.5

Technical data

Inventory number
Workshop of the Miseroni (?: Miseroni, Gasparo)
Vase in the shape of a dragon or caquesseitão
1550 - 1600
Carved; Engraved
Rock crystal / Hyaline quartz
Height: 23 cm; Width: 18 cm; Base/bottom: 8.5 cm; Weight: 777 g; Ancho base: 7.4 cm; Bottom of the base: 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. 175.

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. 227-229.

Ferdinand Karl : ein Sonnenkönig in Tirol, Kunsthistorisches Museum, 2009, pp. 119.

Arbeteta Mira, Letizia, 'Taller de los Miseroni. 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. 86-89 n.5.

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 [508].

Other inventories +

Inv. Real Museo, 1857. Núm. 96.
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 [...] 96. Otro jarro de cristal de roca en forma de sierpe cuyo pescuezo y cabeza la sirven de tapa: en el pie tiene dos sierpes unidas, y el asiento y todo el abierto; tiene un poco quebrada la boca, en el asiento y pie dos engastes de oro esmaltado de negro y rojo.

Inv. Felipe V, La Granja, 1734. Núm. 46.

Inv. Gabinete Historia Natural, 1776. Núm. 96.
Otro Jarro de cristal de roca en forma de sierpe, cuio pescuezo, y caveza, le sirven de tapa en el pie tiene dos sierpes unidas: el asiento, y todo el abierto, tiene un poco quebrado en la voca: en el asiento y pie dos engastes de oro, esmaltado de negro y rojo, vale 1.720...29.

Listado de objetos robados del Real Gabinete de Historia Natural en 1813 y devueltos en 1816. Núm. 96.
Otro Jarro de cristal de roca en forma de Sierpe cuyo pescuezo y caveza le sirven de tapa: en el pie tiene dos sierpes unidas; el asiento y todo él abierto: tiene un poco quebrado en la boca; en el asiento y pie dos engarces de oro, esmaltado en negro y rojo: vale ... 1.720...24 [Conforme]

Inv. Felipe V, La Granja, Tesoro del Delfín, 1746. Núm. 70.
Un Vasso de hechura de Dragón con su Cavesa de encage, alas, Cola y pie todo de Christal de Roca gravado con dos guarniciones de color de Oro Esmaltado, que inclusa la Caveza tiene trece dedos de alto, y Caja de Tafilete negro.

Agates, cristaux, procelaines, bronzes, et autres curiositez qui sont dans le Cabinet de Monseigneur le Dauphin a Versailles. Núm. 46 C.
Numº 46 / Prix contant Pistoles 70 / Un Dragon ailé gravé autour du corps de petites écailles avec sa queüe tortillée autour du corps, porté sur son pied ovale avec deux Dauphins entortillez, le bas dudit pied est ondé. Lié au dessous du corps et au bas dudit pied de deux cercles d'or emaillez de rouge, violet et noir, haut de huit pouces, long de sept pouces et large de trois pouces et demi. / Valeur

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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