Carved and engraved rock-crystal standing cup (tazza)


British Museum

British Museum

The marvellous translucency of rock crystal ensured that it was one of the most prized materials in European princely collections. Skilled techniques were required to carve, polish and engrave this very hard material. Workshops specializing in the carving of hard stones flourished in Milan, Florence and Prague in the second half of the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. The Miseroni workshops in Milan and Prague were among those producing the finest quality hardstone objets d'art. A number of surviving examples attributed to these workshops have pronounced similarities to this magnificent tazza. The tazza (from the Italian, used to describe a shallow ornamental vessel usually on a pedestal) is made up of three separate sections of rock crystal: a narrow oval bowl, a tall baluster stem and an oval foot, each joined by gold and enamel mounts. While the narrow form of the bowl is exceptional, the undulating rim with incurved sections, carved acanthus leaves and engraved intertwined dragons are typical of decoration in the Mannerist style. The strapwork and scrolls of the enamelled mounts also belong to the same style of ornament. The sophisticated pattern of deeply-carved acanthus leaves around the bowl is complemented by the richly-detailed engraving of the dragons.

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  • Title: Carved and engraved rock-crystal standing cup (tazza)
  • Date Created: 1550/1600
  • Physical Dimensions: Length: 22.60cm; Length: 8.70cm (foot); Width: 8.40cm; Width: 7.10cm (foot); Height: 15.00cm; Weight: 310.00g
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: carved; enamelled; intaglio; relief
  • Subject: leaf; dragon
  • Registration number: WB.74
  • Production place: Made in Milan
  • Material: rock crystal; enamel; gold
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Bequeathed by Rothschild, Ferdinand Anselm. Previous owner/ex-collection Nostitz