As with many other minerals, rock crystal has always been held to possess special powers which could aid its owner. This was particularly true in that rock crystal - which was both 'invisible' and incredibly durable - seemed to represent that interim state between the seen and unseen worlds. For Christians in particular, rock crystal had associations with the conception of Christ, where the rock crystal represented the pure receptacle which was the Virgin, receiving the light of her Son.
From the very earliest civilisations, rock crystal has therefore been crafted into jewellery, sculptures and vessels. However, one of the high points of its use was certainly in the 16th century, when princely courts vied with each other to produce the most sumptuous, mounted, rock crystal objects as a method of displaying their sophistication and wealth. One of the greatest repositories of these objects today is the collection of the French Dauphin, son of Louis XIV, which was inherited by the Dauphin's son, Philip V of Spain, and which is now housed in the Prado, Madrid. Among the rock crystal pieces in this collection, a number have close stylistic similarities to the body of the present cup. The spiralling gadroon borders at top and bottom can be seen on at least three items dated to the second half of the 16th century (Iniguez, op. cit., nos. 74-76), and the mythological scenes, including the distinctive depiction of the trees, relates to a platter dated to circa 1580 (ibid, no. 80). In its original form, the cup may have had a lid and, assuming this to be the case, it is easy to see why a craftsman of the later 19th century would take a precious object of the renaissance, and embellish it with the present handles and enamelled gold mounts