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Bloodstone bowl in the form of a dragon

© 1993 RMN / Daniel Arnaudet

Decorative Arts
Renaissance

Author(s):
Barbier Muriel

Some time after 1653, Cardinal Mazarin (1602-1661) acquired this coupe (dessert dish), sculpted in the shape of a dragon, for his collection. It then passed into the collection of Louis XIV (1638-1715). The jasper dish is mounted in a setting of gilded silver and enamelled gold. The carved dish and the mounting may both be the work of the Sarachi family of Milan.

The jasper coupe

The dish was originally made of nine pieces of jasper, one of which has been lost. The lip is in the shape of a monster's head with beetling brows, very similar to the Louvre's dishes OA 38 and MR 147. The lid, hollowed out on the underside, is decorated with a large acanthus leaf, like the jade dish MR 186. The dragon's wings and fin are grooved. The back part of the lid has a hole, which would once have held a swan, since lost.

The gilded silver and enamelled gold mounting

Around the mouth is an enamel edge, decorated with alternating oval motifs in translucent green enamel fringed with white enamel palmettes and rosette motifs with translucent green and pale blue petals, linked by black and green rinceaux. The edge of the lid is also decorated with eight appliqués consisting of double rinceaux in white enamel separated by a cabochon of translucent red enamel within a quatrefoil, also of white enamel, or a flower of translucent dark blue enamel. There are also blue enamel flowers on the top of the feet and around the base. In the center of the lid is an oval gold knob decorated with rinceaux of black enamel, with an oval agate medallion in the center. Around the edge of the medallion is an inscription in French, inviting the recipient of the gift to accept it. The medallion must have been added in France, possibly when the dish was given to Cardinal Mazarin.

Animal-shaped coupes

Other similar animal-shaped vases exist, mostly in the shape of monstrous mythical creatures. Such vases were very popular in the 16th and 17th centuries. They were mostly made of rock crystal, but examples in colored stone survive, such as this one in blood jasper, although animal models in colored stone were generally rarer. For example, Louis XIV's collection only had two such colored stone dragons - this and another in jade. The dragon shape seems to have been fashionable in the 17th century. Several other examples are known, both in rock crystal and in colored stone, in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, and the Museo degli Argentri in Florence.

Bibliography

Alcouffe D., Les Gemmes de la Couronne, Paris, Editions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 2001, p.285-287.

Technical description

  • Sarachi workshop?

    Bloodstone bowl in the form of a dragon

    Last quarter of 16th century?

    Milan

  • Enamelled gold and gilded silver mount

    H. 19 cm; W. 30 cm

  • Former Cardinal Mazarin collection; transferred to the Grand Trianon, then to the Palais de Saint-Cloud in the 19th century

    OA 39

  • Decorative Arts

    Denon wing
    1st floor
    Galerie d'Apollon
    Room 705

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Additional information about the work

Inscription in black enamel around the agate medallion, worn away in part: "[NE REFUSEZ LE] DON. QI. VIENT. A. G[RE]"; number engraved on edge of base: 460 (assigned during 1791 inventory)