Thought to have belonged in the collection of Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II, this ornately decorated Ewer is carved from two pieces of Lapis Lazuli (an exotic and expensive mineral probably imported from what is now Afghanistan) and wrapped in lavish gold. The gold mounts are elegantly chased into the form of a gracious boyish triton, with a horn and split fish-tails.
The Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II, a member of the Habsburg family, maintained his court in Prague, where he became famous for his interest in fantastical, exotic and bizarre artistic creations, and for his interest in science and the occult. The collection was intended to represent the world with its impressive diversity and size. He brought artists and scholars from all over Europe to Prague.
Among the artists who travelled to Rudolf ’s court and received his extravagant patronage were the Dutch goldsmith, Paulus van Vianen, a member of a brilliant and original family of goldsmiths from Utrecht; and Italian hardstone carvers, such as Ottavio Miseroni (1567–1624) of Milan. The attribution of this ewer is uncertain, but it may be the work of an Italian carver that was then mounted in Prague by van Vianen.
Probably Prague, the mounts perhaps by Paulus van Vianen
Gold and lapis lazuli
Height 16.7 cm
Bequeathed by Michael Wellby, 2012