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Chalice

© 1993 RMN / Daniel Arnaudet

Decorative Arts
Middle Ages

Author(s):
Barbier Muriel

This chalice, which Cardinal Mazarin (1602-1661) acquired for his collection between 1653 and 1661, later belonged to the collection of Louis XIV (1638-1715). It is composed of various elements. The foot is the neck of a Fatimid bottle, the upper part is a chalice from the Rhine-Moselle region, and the mounting combining the two was made in Paris in the early 17th century. This chalice is a reminder of the popularity of rock crystal objets d'art in the 17th century.

A foot made from the neck of a bottle

The foot of the chalice was originally the neck of a Fatimid bottle with a spherical, egg-shaped, or cylindrical body. It must have been similar to those now held in the treasuries of the cathedrals of Halberstadt and Capua, and the basilica of San Lorenzo in Florence. The upper part and the lower element were filed smooth prior to reuse. The neck of the bottle, used as the foot of the chalice, consists of three superposed moldings. It is decorated with a frieze depicting ibexes, similar to the ibex carved in the round on the ewer of Al-Aziz-Billah in St. Mark's treasury, Venice, and the fighting ibexes on the casket from the cathedral of Moûtiers, now in the Musée de Cluny in Paris.

Originally a chalice

The upper part was made in the Rhine-Moselle region in the 13th century. It was originally a chalice, also made of skillfully cut and well-polished rock crystal. The whole surface is decorated with engraved motifs consisting of four rinceaux ornamented with volutes tipped with palmettes and stars. The base is carved with a daisy. Two other vases-one in the Prado in Madrid and another in the British Museum in London-have identical rinceaux. Such vases ornamented with rinceaux tipped with palmettes and stars are typical of objects made in the 13th century in the Rhine-Moselle region.

The mount

The Fatimid bottle must formerly have had a different mounting, as the frieze of ibexes is pierced with four holes. The rim of the chalice is decorated with a frieze of stylized leaves. The rim of the base is likewise decorated with stylized leaves underlined by a cord motif. The neck of the Fatimid bottle has been skillfully paired to the chalice by the use of decorative slender twisted moldings and claws decorated with grooves and leaves, which cover the upper part of the neck.

Bibliography

Alcouffe Daniel, Les Gemmes de la Couronne, Editions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 2001, p. 110-111 et p. 115.

Technical description

  • Chalice

    Rock crystal: late 10th or 11th century for the foot, 13th century for the upper partMount: early 17th century

    The Crown Collection

    Rock crystal: Fatimid art and Rhine-Moselle

  • Rock crystal, gilded silver

    H. 21.8 cm; D. 12.5 cm

  • MR 296

  • Decorative Arts

    Richelieu wing
    1st floor
    Suger
    Room 2

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Additional information about the work

Number engraved on the gilded silver base: 138 (attributed during the 1791 inventory)