Rijksmuseum lives its gold cup dream

One of the Rijksmuseum’s most cherished dreams has come true with the long-term loan of a solid gold cup by the Netherlands’ most famous goldsmith Paul van Vianen.

Paul van Vianen was the most important scion of a famous family of silversmiths from Utrecht, and he enjoyed star status in his lifetime. Subsequent generations of silversmiths looked to him as their primary source of inspiration, and artists collected his original works or copies of them. Rembrandt was among the artists who owned plaster casts of objects made by him. Van Vianen ventured out into the great wide world at the age of 16, and he worked at several famous Central European courts before ultimately joining the Prague Royal Court of the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolph II, which he continued to serve until his death in May 1613.

The lid features the gods enacting a proverb from Terence’s comedy Eunuchus that “without Ceres and Bacchus, Venus freezes.” The metonym signifying that love needs food and wine to live was a popular motif in Northern Mannerist art of the second half of the 16th and first half of the 17th century. It appeared in paintings, engravings and as prints in emblem books. Rubens was fond of the motif and painted several version of a chilly Venus needing to be warmed with the fruits of Ceres and Bacchus.

The body of the cup depicts the myth of Diana and Actaeon, described by Ovid in Book III of his Metamorphoses. Actaeon comes across the Huntress bathing with her nymphs and an enraged Diana transforms him into a stag. He flees and is devoured by his own hounds. Another work of Vianen’s on the same theme, a large silver basin made in 1613, was acquired by the Rijksmuseum in 1947. It shares design and composition elements with the cup, most notably the central figure of Actaeon beginning to sprout antlers.

The cup was created in Prague in 1610 for Heinrich Julius, Prince of Brunswick-Wolfenb├╝ttel. Heinrich Julius spent years at the court of Rudolph II, enlisting the emperor’s aid in his struggle against the proudly independent burghers of Brunswick who were not even remotely interested in relinquishing 200 years of autonomy and bending the knee to their ostensible prince. There’s a portrait of the prince in full armour on the inside of the cup.

After Heinrich Julius’s death in 1613, the cup passed to his daughter Sophia Hedwig, wife of Count Ernest Casimir I of Nassau-Dietz. It spent the next two centuries as the greatest masterpiece in the collection of the Dutch royal family. In 1881 it was sold to a German collector, much to the Rijksmuseum’s dismay. The museum mourned its loss by crafting a gilt copper replica, a wan simulacrum of the original. Last year the gold cup was offered to the Rijksmuseum. The Wessels family bought it for them, so while the cup is still privately owned, it will be on public display at the Rijksmuseum in perpetuo.

Gilt copper replica (left) and original gold cup (right). Photo courtesy the Rijksmuseum.

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Comment by Oleg
2019-12-14 00:56:44

After stays in France and Germany, van Vianen also went to Italy, where, according to Joachim von Sandrart, he was reported to the Inquisition and even incarcerated.

By a mediating representative of Emperor Rudolf II, whose court van Vianen would later work at, he was able to regain his freedom. In the 1590s, van Vianen worked in Munich, where he was granted citizenship and, by the mediation of Duke Maximilian, for whom he probably also worked during this time, was accepted as a master goldsmith in the Munich guild of goldsmiths.

Later, in 1603 he left Salzburg to go to Prague, his last life station, where he worked as an imperial chamber goldsmith for Rudolf II, until he probably was killed by the plague in 1613.

During his time in Munich, he mainly made plaques with predominantly mythological and biblical motifs, which were stylistically close to the Nuremberg goldsmith’s art of that time, so that a stay there before his time in Munich is assumed.

:hattip:

 
Comment by Jim
2019-12-14 09:00:57

The Pennsylvania-German makers of saffron cups, Joseph Lehn, and the Mahontongo-maker especially, must have drawn inspiration from, if not this cup, this form.

 
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