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Oval sard bowl

© 1997 RMN / Daniel Arnaudet

Decorative Arts
17th century

Barbier Muriel

This bowl entered the collection of Louis XIV, a great lover of hard stone, before 1673. It is oval-shaped and made of sard. The bowl comes from Iraq, where it was cut in the 9th century. The mount is the work of the French "white and pink" workshop and dates from about 1665. The enameled decor with cameos is typical of the 17th century, and its refinement complements that of the stone.

A bowl cut in Iraq

The bowl was cut in a dark brown sard with transparent crystallizations. The flat rim running around the mouth is pierced with seven holes indicating that the bowl must already have featured a metal rim and handle before the present embellishments were added. Narrowing slightly in the center and encircled with a band of rounded molding, the bowl is decorated with a sculpted bas-relief frieze of leaves alternating with disks. This type of decor is also found on a rock-crystal vase in the St. Mark's Treasury in Venice and on the vases and frescoes of Samarra'. This Iraqi city, situated 100 kilometers from Baghdad, was built and occupied from 836 to 892. The vases made in Samarra' consitute a link between those of the Sasanid and Fatimid periods.

Enameled mount

The mount, however, was executed in about 1665 by the "white and pink" workshop in France, like the bowls MR 126 and MR 222. The artists of this workshop added a pedestal, two handles, and an enameled gold lid. On the stem of the foot, the corolla of the lid, and inside the handles is the same painted enamel decor of large white and pink leaves. The rest of the foot, the edge of the lid and the outside of the handles are decorated with enameled bas-reliefs of flowers and polychrome leaves. Naturalistic ornamentation executed in painted enamel and other materials is characteristic of 17th-century works.

The cameos on the mount

The decoration of the bowl is completed by a series of 16th-century agate cameos. The lid is decorated with nine cameos. The central cameo is cut so as to depict two styles of scene: the upper part features Mercury standing on a chariot and saluting the sign of Gemini; the lower part depicts a seascape and a port. This is perhaps an allegory featuring a person born under the sign of Gemini. The ten cameos inserted into the enameled decoration of the lid are busts of figures, including Minerva, Apollo, and Elizabeth I (1533-1603). Many cameos depicting Elizabeth I have been produced. On the foot are seven cameos of Henry IV of France, Elizabeth I, and other figures.


Alcouffe Daniel, Les Gemmes de la Couronne, Editions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 2001, p. 179-180.

Technical description

  • Oval sard bowl

    9th-10th century


  • Mount: enamelled gold (Paris, c. 1665) with 16th-century cameos

    H. 14.50 cm; W. 18.50 cm; W. 17.50 cm

  • Entered the collection of Louis XIV before 1673

    MR 129

  • Decorative Arts

    Denon wing
    1st floor
    Galerie d'Apollon
    Room 66

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Additional information about the work

Number engraved on the inside of the rim of the lid: 431 (1791 inventory number)