The cover sculpted in the round (en ronde bosse) is a burgeoning scene on the theme of Mount Parnassus, dominated by Diane and Orpheus and supplemented by putti and animals charmed by the lyre of the musician. The stem shows Atlas kneeling on a mound inhabited by reptiles. In between, the two sides of the bowl are decorated in an enamel paint, respectively with a scene from Ovid and a hunting scene.
According to the sensitivity of the mid-nineteenth century, this cup should be attributed to Benvenuto Cellini with several arguments : the mythology, the extreme density of the characters, the use of enamel on gold. Shortly after the Exhibition, Baron Lionel waives this attribution.
The habit of melting the old silverware leaves very few comparative elements to define the place and date of its creation and even its original use. A similarity appears however with a cup without lid preserved in the Rijksmuseum : the figure of Orpheus constituting the stem and the animals and putti surrounding the poet have probably the same origin as the corresponding elements of the Orpheus Cup.
The solution to this mystery is not found but will come from the new assumption that the three parts are composite, which is quite plausible for a piece of silverware.
A mark on another enameled bowl that also offers some similarities leads to an origin in Augsburg in the mid seventeenth century, a period consistent with the iconography of the bowl but too recent for the ronde bosse. It is possible that a South German craftsman had gathered the current cover and stem of the Orpheus Cup along with the current stem of the Rijksmuseum cup and assembled the two bowls around 1650 with these elements made circa 1580 by one of his predecessors.
The Rothschild Orpheus Cup is estimated £ 600K for sale by Sotheby's in London on July 6, lot 8.
SOLD for £ 1.06M including premium