Carved agate bowl


British Museum

British Museum

This beautiful oval bowl may have been made in the Miseroni family workshop in Milan or the Ottavio Miseroni workshop in Prague at the beginning of the seventeenth century. The bowl and its foot are carved from a single piece of agate. The variations in patterns and striations of the stone are remarkable, as are the colour tones, which range from red to grey, white and lilac. The thinness of the carving and the high polishing has made the bowl almost translucent. The exterior is carved in low relief with a sophisticated design of ornament in the Mannerist style, comprising acanthus leaves, curling scrolls and alternating gadroons and square-ended tongues, arranged in a graduated, radiating pattern. Similar ornament is found on a number of surviving hardstone vessels known to have been produced in the Miseroni workshops in Milan or Prague, or the Imperial workshops in Prague, often under the direct patronage of Rudolph II, Holy Roman emperor (1576-1612). Although they each have different combinations of ornament, the use of the square-ended tongues points to the same source of skilled carving and lively invention. The gold and enamel mounts are later replacements, possibly dating to the second quarter of the nineteenth century. They are not as sophisticated in execution or design as seventeenth-century enamelled gold mounts, nor are they in the same style.

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  • Title: Carved agate bowl
  • Date Created: 1600/1600
  • Physical Dimensions: Height: 7.50cm; Length: 18.50cm (with rim mount); Length: 7.70cm (foot); Width: 14.00cm (with rim mount); Width: 6.30cm (foot); Weight: 418.00g
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: carved; polished; low relief; engraved; enamelled
  • Registration number: WB.84
  • Production place: Made in Milan. Made in Prague
  • Producer: Workshop of Miseroni, Ottavio
  • Material: agate; enamel; gold
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Bequeathed by Rothschild, Ferdinand Anselm
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