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Nef en jaspe au monogramme I.R.I.

© 1999 RMN / Jean-Gilles Berizzi

Decorative Arts
17th century

Author(s):
Barbier Muriel

The French Crown collection of precious and semiprecious stoneware, rich in Italian vases, also includes many works from Germanic workshops. The Louvre nef bearing the monogram of Emperor Rudolf II (1552-1612) is the work of Ottavio Miseroni (c. 1569-1624), an Italian lapidary invited to Prague by the emperor. This monumental jasper nef is the largest vessel in the collection of Louis XIV (1638-1715).

The workshop of Ottavio Miseroni

Emperor since 1576, Rudolf II (1552-1612) invited Ottavio Miseroni (c. 1569-1624) to Prague to found a hard-stone workshop capable of rivaling those of Milan. Supported by imperial commissions, Miseroni developed a style of his own. His creations moved away from traditional lines and drew on the natural form of the stone. The decoration often features scrolls or stylized foliage in slight relief or "taille d'épargne" (black enamel tracery). The jasper nef in the Louvre is one of his most majestic creations. Several other works by the lapidary are housed in the Louvre. Ottavio Miseroni's workshop continued its activity under the founder's son and grandson until the latter's death in 1684, and met with great success.

An exceptional stone

The nef was carved out of thick jasper and is exceptionally large. Miseroni's work reflects a certain ease of execution, although it must have taken several months to complete. The nef is oblong in shape with rounded tips and narrows at the center. The very thick edges are also rounded. The ornamentation is sculpted in very light relief. At the center of the long sides, two carved grotesque figures with long mustaches extend from the molding on the rim. The shorter sides feature the torso of a winged woman and the monogram I.R.I. under the imperial crown of Rudolf II. An unpolished groove is cut into the foot. Rudolf II was highly satisfied with this piece, and conferred titles of nobility on Ottavio and two of his brothers the same year.

A nef with a prestigious destiny

This nef is the only object attributed to Miseroni in the inventory of the Kunstkammer of Rudolf II. We know that it had always stood on a gilded-silver base, which may be the present one of matte gilded silver. However, this is very different from the mounts of Miseroni's other vases. It is therefore possible that the mount was changed in France at a later date. The nef entered the collection of Cardinal Mazarin between 1653 and 1661. It later featured in the collections of Louis XIV among the other precious stoneware. It is the largest vessel in the collection of Louis XIV and was considered of great importance. It was reproduced on the ceiling of the Salon de l'Abondance in the Château de Versailles painted by René-Antoine Houasse, an indication of its fame. The nef entered the Louvre after the French Revolution and has not left the museum since.

Bibliography

Alcouffe Daniel, Les Gemmes de la Couronne, Editions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 2001, p. 343-344.

Technical description

  • Ottavio MISERONI (Prague, fin du XVIe siècle - début du XVIIe siècle)

    Nef en jaspe au monogramme I.R.I.

    1608

    Prague

  • Monture en argent doré : Prague, vers 1608 ?

    H. : 19 cm. ; l. : 58 cm. ; L. : 33 cm.

  • Ancienne collection de Rodolphe II puis du cardinal Mazarin

    MR 143

  • Decorative Arts

    Denon wing
    1st floor
    Galerie d'Apollon
    Room 66

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Additional information about the work

Monogram on the "prow": I.R.I. [Rudolf II] under the imperial crown