THE CUNHA BRAGA CUP
A HIGHLY IMPORTANT RENAISSANCE ENAMELLED GOLD-MOUNTED ROCK-CRYSTAL AND GLASS CUP
No VAT will be charged on the hammer price, but VA… Read more THE PROPERTY OF A PORTUGUESE FAMILY
THE CUNHA BRAGA CUP A HIGHLY IMPORTANT RENAISSANCE ENAMELLED GOLD-MOUNTED ROCK-CRYSTAL AND GLASS CUP

CIRCA 1600-1610, PROBABLY SOUTH GERMAN, POSSIBLY AUGSBURG

Details
THE CUNHA BRAGA CUP
A HIGHLY IMPORTANT RENAISSANCE ENAMELLED GOLD-MOUNTED ROCK-CRYSTAL AND GLASS CUP
CIRCA 1600-1610, PROBABLY SOUTH GERMAN, POSSIBLY AUGSBURG
Boat-shaped, the semi-translucent yellowish amber-coloured body with finely faceted quartz exterior and on small oval flat base, the polished glass interior displaying a cellular effect, the exterior of the gold rim mount applied at one end with a handle formed as a dramatically modelled winged dragon with dark green enamel body and snarling twisted lighter green head with red enamel eyes, resting his purple front claws on the rim and his back claws and tail on the enamel band below, the dragon's back inset with polished rough glass over powdered amber on gold base, the exterior of the rim mount repoussé and enamelled en ronde bosse above a waved reeded gold band, one side with a bas-relief of a huntsman blowing a horn with two hounds pursuing a stag with trees and buildings in the background, the other with a huntsman and hounds chasing a hare, all in shades of red, blue, gold, green and brown on a white ground, the lip with scrolling paired acanthus, pea-pod ornament and other flowers and foliage, the interior champlevé and basse taille enamelled in similar colours with further hunting scenes incorporating a mounted horseman, two hunters with rifles and another blowing a horn and with hounds chasing and killing game, all within scrolling multi-coloured flowers, exotic birds, snails and butterflies, the lip with twinned dolphin-headed scrolls, all on a white ground between plain polished gold mounts, the lower one waved to fit the contours of the glass lining
Overall length 5½ in. (14 cm.); overall height 2 5/8 in. ( 7.3 cm.); overall width 2¾in (7 cm.)
Provenance
Alfredo Baptista Cunha Braga (1869-1932), Lisbon, acquired circa 1920
and then by direct descent to the present owners
Literature
Manuscript list of the art purchases of Alfredo Baptista Cunha Braga, Lisbon, post-1907

Special notice

No VAT will be charged on the hammer price, but VAT at 15% will be added to the buyer's premium which is invoiced on a VAT inclusive basis.

Lot Essay

THE MUNICH CUP

This extraordinary cup is so similar to a second example, displayed for centuries in the Schatzkammer, Residenz Museum, Munich, as to suggest they were without doubt from the same workshop and in all probability made for the same commission. This second cup has a clear rock-crystal body differently faceted. The dragon's head is enamelled in bright blue and has a more aggressive teeth-laden open mouth. The differing enamelled scenes on the exterior are of a bear and boar hunt while those on the interior are of a hare and stag hunt. It is somewhat larger being 6 1/8 in. (15.6 cm) long, 3 3/8in (8.6 cm) high and 3 5/16 (8.5 cm). The cup appears in the first Munich Inventory of 1730 as:

Ein von goldt und geschmelzter Arbeith gefastes Crystallenes schällerl oben ein Drackh süzend. (Inventar Schatzkammer 1730, fol. 10v)

(A small crystal bowl mounted with gold and enamel work, a dragon seated above)

and again in the second inventory of 1745 listed as:

ain drinkh geschür garniert von golt undt einen kleinen Trackhen, und eingefast von einer Jacht fügurn, und von dieren. (Inventar Schatzkammer 1745, Teil 3, Nr. 29)

(A drinking vessel garnished with gold and a small dragon, surrounded by hunting figures and animals)

The catalogue of the objects in the Schatzkammer tentatively suggests a Polish origin of circa 1610 for the Munich cup (ed. Herbert Brunner, Schatzkammer der Residenz München, Katalog, 3rd edn, 1970, Munich, p. 173, cat. no. 355). This attribution seems to be largely based on the tenuous grounds that the overall form resembles that of a Russian kovsh. Brunner particularly cites the well-known gold and jewelled example owned by Ivan the Terrible (r. 1553-1584) now in the collection of the Green Vaults, Dresden (J.L.Sponsell, Das Grüne Gewölbe zu Dresden, Leipzig, 1925-31, vol. II, pl. 2). However, the Munich and present examples completely lack the fundamental characteristics of this and indeed all kovsh. They were designed to ladle out drinks and for communal drinking and have a practical flat-topped handle to allow liquid to be tipped out of the bowl sideways and a prominent prow to the front of the bowl rather than a lip for pouring.

FUNCTION

The Munich and present gold and enamelled cups actually bear for more resemblance to a gold-mounted rock crystal cup with wine cascading from its lip, held aloft by Venus in the painting by Bartholomeus Spranger (Antwerp, 1546-Prague, 1611) of Venus and Bacchus, painted post -1590, than they do to any kovsh. This painting is now in Hanover at the Niedersáchsisches Landesmuseum (inv. no. PAM 956, illustrated in the exhibition catalogue, ed E. Fucikova et al., Rudolph II and Prague, London, 1997, p. 22 and p. 406 no 1.88).

While many kunstkammer objects appear to have been made purely to demonstrate the maker's artistic virtuosity it is also quite likely, given the overall quality and the subject of the enamel decoration, that these cups may represent a very early and regal form of stirrup or hunting cup. Later 17th century German and French silver examples have no handle, often no foot, and have sides that curve in at the top. A very interesting silver-gilt stirrup cup on small oval foot and without handle, enamelled en ronde bosse with hunting scene incorporating a leopard, wolf and boar, catalogued as possibly Hungarian 17th century, may well be a transitional form (Christie's London, 19 November 2002, lot 28).

DESIGN SOURCES, COUNTRY OF ORIGIN AND DATING

The enamelled hunting scenes on the exterior and interior borders of this cup are very generic but the stag being pursued by a hunting dog is very similar to that in a print signed VS in monogram for the Nuremberg printmaker, Virgil Solis (1514-1562) or his extensive workshop (see Hollstein, vol. LXV pt. III 9 82 fig 785). His prints were used by a large number of mainly, but not exclusively, German artists and craftsmen as design sources for many years after his death when his workshop continued under the direction of Balthasar Jenichen who married his widow.

Perhaps more relevant is a print signed by Daniel Marot dated 1595. A detail of the pea-pod ornament and flowers is so close to the floral scroll ornament either side of the handle on the present cup as to suggest that it may well have been the actual design source for this part of the decoration (A.Hämmmerle, 'Daniel Mignot', Das Schwaebisch Museum, 1930 p.39 no. 15 and R. Christie, 'Blackwork Prints Designs for Enamelling', Print Quarterly, March 1988, vol. 5 no.1, p.5 fig.6). Daniel Mignot, a Huguenot, published a series of designs for ornament and jewellery between 1593 and 1596 in Augsburg. Since the activities of engravers was unrestricted there is no record of him acquiring guild membership (Y.Hackenbroch, Renaissance Jewellery, London, 1979, pp. 178-180). Mignot's designs are closely related to the work of David Altenstetter (1547 -1617) who was without doubt one of the greatest enamellers of his day and, although his signed work seems to be solely in basse taille enamel and directly laid into engraved channels in the silver without enamel surround, his authorship of these exceptional cups should not be automatically excluded (see The Altenstetter Service, Christie's London, 1 December 2005, lot 514).

It is just possible that the Munich and present cups were made for Rudolph II's legendary kunstkammer in Prague but this of course does not preclude a South German origin. If that is indeed the case it may be that they are two cups included consecutively in the 1621 inventory but the detail of enamel decoration is rarely, if ever, given in this inventory which makes positive identification virtually impossible.

1621 inventory of the Prague Schatz and Kunstkammer described under case no. 12:

# 231 Ein schälichen von gelben jaspis, mit gold gefast

(A little bowl of amber-coloured jasper in gold mount)

# 232 Ein schälichen von crystal, in gold gefast

(A little bowl of crystal, in gold mount)

The latter alone re-appears in a list of items moved by the King to Vienna in 1631 as:

# 38 Mehr ein schallen von cristall, in gold gefast

(More a bowl of crystal in gold mount)

While many such items were used as Royal and ambassadorial gifts other pieces from both Vienna and Prague were looted or sold off in the 17th and 18th centuries.

A careful physical comparison of items in the Kusthistorisches Museum, Vienna, known to have come from Prague, indicates that the enamelling of the hardstone mounts by Vermeyen and others is, if anything, generally of less high quality than that on the present and Munich cups. This, without doubt, precludes Poland as a country of manufacture and suggests a main-stream European origin, in all likelihood in Southern Germany such as Augsburg. It is astonishing that a workshop with the ability to produce two such distinctive objects of quite extraordinary quality has as yet not been positively identified.

CONSTRUCTION

The technical workmanship displayed in the making of this cup is little short of miraculous. The body is in two parts with a layer of enamel or, more probably, amber lacquer sandwiched between the outer faceted rock-crystal exterior and the inner plain polished glass lining. It seems quite possible that that this pigmentation may have deepened in colour with age. The inset "stone" in the dragon handle is actually of rough glass apparently over amber on a gold base. Foiling of precious stones to further enhance the natural colour is, of course, an absolutely standard procedure used in the manufacture of much renaissance jewellery.

The lining of rock-crystal with glass is extraordinary and appears to be unique in surviving mounted crystal objects of the Renaissance. It comes at a time when glass makers were experimenting and beginning to produce double-walled glass vessels. This technique had its origins in ancient Rome and reached its zenith in Germany in early 18th century zwischenglas.

Physical examination of the Munich cup strongly suggests that it too originally had a similar liner to the present example which has been lost. The resulting gap around the body has been reduced by inserting a now tarnished and thus, presumably, silver-gilt strip visible in the interior. The faceting of the body is also of very high calibre though differing from the present cutting and, though pure speculation, it may be that the liner was broken in manufacture and the piece put together in its present form to meet a deadline.

The decoration of the outer borders of both cups en ronde bosse involves repoussé work or first chasing out the scenes to be enamelled from the reverse and then applying the enamel to give a bas- relief effect. The interior cloisonné and basse taille enamelling is equally refined and technically brilliant. The exterior and interior gold borders with enamel scenes would have had to be soldered together and the en ronde bosse dragon applied with a screw concealed beneath the animal's tail to complete the construction. The handle on the Munich example is secured by what must be a later nut on the interior of the bowl to a thread drilled through the enamel.

Similar faceting to the wonderful cutting of the outer body of this cup can be found as early as circa 1400 on precious gems. A superb Burgundian gothic necklace in the Hohenlohe collection contains a sapphire cut in this manner. This necklace is recorded in the earliest Hohenlohe family inventory of 1506 (exhibited Schloss Stuttgart, Expo Gotik, 2006). Examples of similarly faceted emeralds dating probably from the 17th century including three oval stones belonging later to Augustus the Strong and another in the Württemberg crown are also known (Uli Arnold, Die Juwelen August des Starken, app. 10, pl.116 and exhibited in the schatzkammer of Schloss Stuttgart respectively).

Larger scale rock crystal carving was a speciality of Salzburg in Austria and Freiburg in Breisgauer. Indeed there are a few pieces which are attributable to the hardstone cutters of Freiburg, who supplied carved rock-crystal to goldsmiths all over Germany and indeed Europe for mounting, on which the faceting appears similar to, but arguably less refined than, that on the present cup. Two silver-gilt mounted standing cups and covers, one dating from the mid-16th century and one mounted by Georg Barst, Nuremberg, circa 1630-1650 are particularly close (G. Irmscher, Der Bresgauer Bergkristallschliff der frühen Neuzeitt, Munich 1997 nos. 54 and 53 respectively). Although dating from 1776/1777 and portraying the gem cutters and polishers of Idar-Oberstein, a detail showing a worker in the traditional manner lying on a special stool holding a gemstone against a, presumably, water-powered grinding wheel from Cosmo Alessandro Collini's Journal d'un voyage, gives a vivid idea of the exceptional skill involved in cutting and faceting such an object.

ALFREDO BAPTISTA CUNHA BRAGA (1869-1932)

The Portuguese Alfredo Baptista Cunha Braga was a very successful and wealthy business man with interests in Brazil and Portugal in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He amassed a considerable collection of works of art of varying quality in several fields, buying such objects during his many travels as well as at local auctions in Portugal. For example, he purchased a large work by the Spanish 19th century artist, Eugenio Lucas Velasquez at the sale of the Count of Dopias in Lisbon in 1910 (re-sold Christie's Madrid, 4 October, 2006, lot 64) as well as numerous pieces of Chinese export porcelain.

His list of purchases starts in 1907 but, regrettably, does not give the exact dates of his purchases or their sources but this cup is listed as one of the most expensive works he acquired. Remaining unknown for the best part of a century to scholars and virtually untouched in the same cabinet since he bought it, it is to him and his heirs that we at least partly owe its survival and remarkable state of preservation. AP

(We would very much like to thank Dr Rudolph Distelberger for drawing our attention to the Munich example and for allowing us to examine with him the Prague pieces in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna. We are equally grateful to Dr. Sabine Heym, Curator of the Schatzkammer, the Residenz Museum, Munich for allowing us to photograph, physically examine and compare the present and Munich cups with the Schatzkammer's senior restorer, Herr Öke and Dr Lorenz Seelig of the Bayerisches Nationalmuseum, Munich. The latter's information on early glass manufacturing techniques was particularly helpful.

In addition we would like to thank Philippa Glanville, Senior Research Fellow at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London for her thoughts on the possible function of these cups, Charles Truman and Nicholas Stogden for their suggestions on print sources and Dr. Fabian Stein for his help).


Illustration captions

Bartholomeus Spranger (Antwerp 1546-Prague 1611)
Bacchus and Venus
Courtesy of the Niedersächsisches Landesmuseum, Hanover

Courtesy of the Bayerische Schlösserverwaltung, Residenz München, Schatzkammer

Courtesy of Galerie Kugel, Paris

Courtesy of the Bayerische Verwaltung der staatlichen Schlösser, Gärten und Seen.
The Schatzkammer, the Residenz Museum, Munich.

Alfredo Baptista Cunha Braga (1869-1932)

Daniel Mignot, C-Scroll Design, 1595
Courtesy of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London
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