The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
  • Goblet
  • Unknown Artist / Maker
  • Venice
  • c. 1500
  • Calcedonio glass with mould-blown, applied and tooled features
  • Height: 18 cm
    Diameter: 12.1 cm
  • C513
  • Sixteenth Century Gallery
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • This masterpiece from the ‘Golden Age’ of Venetian glass-making is an exceptional example of the glass-makers’ technological virtuosity in simulating hardstones. The exterior of the ogee-shaped bowl and pedestal foot imitate the banded agate chalcedony in contrasting warm and cold palettes. By contrast, the interior and rim of the bowl are pale green, the trail applied to its base is grey and the interior of the foot is greyish-green.

    The Gothic form of the goblet, with its ogee-shaped bowl and vertical ribbing, is inspired by metalwork standing cups. The vertical ribbing restricted to the lower section of the bowl is known as 'mezza stampaura', literally 'half-moulding'. 'Mezza stampaura' ribbing was fashionable for such Venetian glass objects as goblets, beakers and footed bowls in the late 15th and early 16th centuries. This goblet may originally have had a cover.

    In imitating hardstones, Venetian Renaissance glass-makers were following Roman precedent. They were also exemplifying a new intellectual curiosity about the material world inspired by humanist interest in Classical texts such as Pliny the Elder's 'Naturalis Historia' (AD 77) and their own contact with more distant lands. The glass-makers undoubtedly aspired, also, to appeal to the most luxurious market and challenge the supremacy of mounted hardstones such as chalcedony, rock crystal and turquoise. Writing about Venice in the late 15th century, Marcantonio Coccio Sabellico provides us with a sense of the awe in which this kind of work was held, proclaiming that, ‘There is no kind of precious stone which cannot be imitated by the industry of the glass workers, a sweet contest of man and nature’.

    The first known documentary reference to the production of 'calcedonio' glass in Renaissance Italy is contained in a contract drawn up in 1460 between Taddeo Barovier, brother of the renowned glass-maker Angelo Barovier, and an apprentice. Together with some further documents, it indicates the centrality of the Barovier family in the development of 'calcedonio' glass. It was one of the most complex and expensive types of glass to be produced in Renaissance Venice. Highly prized, it supplied a luxury market and a mounted example appears to be described in an inventory of Henry VIII's possessions taken in 1547.