Milan, Italy; late 1500s
Attributed to Giovanni Ambrogio Miseroni (1551–1616)
Rock crystal, gold, enamel
H. 17.5cm; W. 27.5cm; D. 18.2cm
This extraordinary cup is carved from rock crystal and is attributed to Giovanni Ambrogio Miseroni, the greatest of all the hardstone engravers of the Renaissance period. Of boat shape, it is surmounted at the stern by a crouching triton who stares towards the bow, where a grotesque mask forms the lip of the cup. The water-like clarity of the rock crystal provides a fitting visual conceit for the themes of the cup, which is engraved on one side with Neptune holding his trident and riding in a shell-shaped chariot, and on the other with Amphitrite in a barque pulled by dolphins.
The cup was formerly in the Borghese Collection before entering the collection of Baron Gustave de Rothschild in Paris in 1879 and thence passing by descent to the Marquesses of Cholmondeley at Houghton Hall, Norfolk.