The Portland Vase, £5.00
Height: 7.500 cm
Width: 18.400 cm
Diameter: 14.000 cm (with rim mount)
Width: 18.400 cm
Length: 7.800 cm (foot rim)
Bequeathed by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild
M&ME Waddesdon Bequest 84
Room 45: Waddesdon Bequest
Carved agate bowl
Possibly made in Milan or Prague, early 17th century AD
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.
H. Tait, Catalogue of the Waddesdon B-2 (London, The British Museum Press, 1991)