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Work Inkstand bearing the arms of Cardinal da Cunha

Department of Decorative Arts: 18th century: rococo

Ink-stand bearing the arms of Cardinal da Cunha

© 2005 Musée du Louvre / Peter Harholdt

Decorative Arts
18th century: rococo

Barbier Muriel

This large, silver-gilt inkstand was made for export by Thomas Germain, silversmith and sculptor to the king, and bears the arms of Cardinal da Cunha, a member of an eminent Portuguese family. The craftsmanship is consumately skilled and extremely ornate. Entirely chased and decorated with serrated foliage, it is emblematic of the rococo style and of the role played by Thomas Germain in its dissemination.

A gift to Cardinal da Cunha

The arms of Cardinal da Cunha can still be read beneath the cardinal's hat on the sides of the stand. They can also be seen on the lid of the orginal red Morocco leather cover (likewise in the Louvre). Cardinal da Cunha, a member of an illustrious Portuguese family, was related to an ambassador to the French Court, Luiz da Cunha, who died in Paris in 1749. The cardinal received this inkstand as a gift. We know that the city of Paris offered silver inkstands made by Thomas Germain as gifts on several occasions. The Parisian silversmiths, and particularly the Germains, supplied numerous works for foreign clients, and it was through these exchanges that the rococo style was disseminated throughout Europe.

A rococo inkstand

The inkstand consists of a chased stand, recipients, and writing instruments. In the middle is a sponge holder surmounted by a hand bell, and, to either side, the inkwell and sandbox (sand was used to dry the ink). The stand itself has involuted legs, and its curved edges decorated with moldings give the ensemble an extremely lively appearance. The top of the stand is covered with fluting and acanthus leaves chased in very shallow relief. The sponge holder has been given the form of an ornate architectural plinth and is flanked by intricately sculpted and chased acanthus leaves that link it to the inkwell and sandbox. The inkwell and sandbox are entirely covered with cabled fluting, and their lids are surmounted by a bunch of grapes. All these detailed and naturalistically rendered ornaments form part of the rococo repertoire and are to be found on the tableware pieces Thomas Germain executed during the same period. The exquisite elegance of the inkstand is characteristic of this silversmith's virtuoso craftsmanship.


"Département des objets d'art", in Revue des Musées de France, 1957, pp. 128-129.

Technical description

  • Thomas GERMAIN (1673 - 1748)

    Ink-stand bearing the arms of Cardinal da Cunha


  • Gilded silver

  • Gift of Baronne Cassel Van Doorn, 1966 , 1966

    OA 9941

  • Decorative Arts

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Additional information about the work

Hallmarks:Hallmark: Paris, 1744-50; maison commune: 1746-47; master: Thomas Germain; export: Crowned C