Exhibition | Transparent Art: Rock Crystal Carving

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on December 12, 2015


Vase in the shape of a dragon or ‘caquesseitão’; Milan, workshop of the Miseroni, possibly Gasparo Miseroni (act. 1550–70) (?) Rock crystal; second half of the 1500s (Madrid: Museo Nacional del Prado)

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Now on view at the Prado, this exhibition of sixteenth-century carved rock crystal includes items from the collection of the Grand Dauphin (1661–1711). The show also provides a convenient occasion to draw attention to the Prado’s newly designed website, which particularly showcases images. While such a feature might seem obvious for a museum website, it’s hardly been true in most cases to date (the press release detailing the site’s key features is available here).

From the Prado:

Transparent Art: Rock Crystal Carving in Renaissance Milan
Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 14 October 2015 — 10 January 2016

Curated by Letizia Arbeteta Mira

The present exhibition offers visitors a unique opportunity to see a little known chapter in art history, namely that of carving hyaline quartz or rock crystal, a technique for which Milan was particularly celebrated in the second half of the 16th century. Due to their value, both material and artistic, these works were only within the reach of monarchs and the highest ranks of the European aristocracy.

45b2e430-3fcc-706f-bb3f-ce00b783e4f6The exhibition includes six magnificent examples loaned from two of the most important historical collections: that of the Medici, now in the Museo degli Argenti in Florence, and the collection of Louis XIV, now in the Musée du Louvre in Paris. Another fourteen splendid pieces, now in the Prado, come from the collection assembled by the Grand Dauphin of France, son of Louis XIV, which was in part inherited by Philip V, the first Spanish Bourbon monarch, in 1711. The latter group, known as ‘The Dauphin’s Treasure’, entered the Prado in 1839. Although somewhat reduced over the course of its eventful history, it still includes important objects, particularly those in rock crystal. In total it has 47 hyaline quartz vessels, 2 in citrine quartz and 1 in smoky quartz. Various academic studies have attributed these pieces to leading workshops and masters, almost all of them Milanese.

Letizia Arbeteta Mira, Arte transparente: La talla del cristal en el Renacimiento milanés (Madrid: Museo del Prado, 2015), 160 pages, ISBN: 978-8484803362, 39€.


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