The Field Cup. A highly important Venetian enamelled and gilt blue-tinted standing bowl Late 15th century.

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Lot 271
The Field Cup. A highly important Venetian enamelled and gilt blue-tinted standing bowl
Late 15th century.

£ 180,000 - 220,000
US$ 250,000 - 300,000
The Field Cup. A highly important Venetian enamelled and gilt blue-tinted standing bowl
Late 15th century.
Of rounded form with folded rim, painted with pairs of winged sphinxes opposing a cherub's head emerging from a vase alternating with pairs of cherubs seated on gilt urns, on a grassy sward and reserved on a ground of gilt scrolling foliage, below a gilt band inscribed TENPORE FELICI MVLTI NOMINANTVR AMICI, over a high trumpet foot with folded rim brushed with gilding, 16.5cm high by 20.8cm diameter (blown bubble to rim) (2)


  • Provenance:
    George Field
    Baron Alphonse de Rothschild (1827-1905), Paris
    Baron Edouard de Rothschild (1868-1949), Paris
    Baroness Batsheva de Rothschild (1914-1999), Tel Aviv
    Rothschild Inv.nos.P.48 and R.261(?)
    Sold Christie's, The Collection of The Late Baroness Batsheva de Rothschild, 14 December 2000, lot 23
    Exhibited: The Art Treasures of the United Kingdom, Manchester, 1857
    Illustrated by J.B.Waring, Catalogue of the Art Treasures of the United Kingdom collected at Manchester in 1857, in the section headed 'The Museum of Ornamental Art', London (1858), chromolithograph, pl.2

    The inscription translates as 'In times of abundance one has lots of friends'.

    The sphinx motif appears on a green beaker attributed to Venice, circa 1500, formerly in the Kunstgewerbe Museum, Berlin (see R.Schmidt, Das Glas, Berlin, 1912, p.93, pl.56 and F.A.Dreier, 'Ein venezianischer Emailglas-Pokal, Aus der Sammlung Lady Bagot', Kunst & Antiquitäten, Zeitschrift für Kunstfreunde Sammler und Museen, Heft III, 1986, p.56, pl.5). Although the beaker was probably destroyed during the Second World War Schmidt describes it, op cit, as decorated with sphinxes, cherub's heads and putti. The putti on the present example bear a close resemblance to those on a blue-tinted standing bowl in the Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio (ex. collections Charles Stein, Paris, and Maurice de Rothschild, Geneva) (see R.Barovier-Mentasti et al., exhibition catalogue, Mille anni di arte del vetro a Venezia, 1982, p.81, nos.71a-c, and R.von Strasser and W.Spiegl, Dekoriertes Glas, 1989, p.28, pl.27).

    No other blue-tinted Venetian standing bowl with a gilt band etched with an inscription is recorded in the literature. A part-coloured shallow bowl, however, in the Museo Ala Ponzone, Cremona, with a partial gilt amethyst-tinted trumpet-shaped foot, is also inscribed within a gilt border below the rim. This example was recorded in the museum's collection at least as early as 1840 (see R.Barovier Mentasti et al, Les Âges du Verre, p.176, no.51). Similar inscriptions also appear on five clear glass bowls from the late 15th century. See the example exhibited in the Musée Ariana, Geneva, 1995 (illustrated Erwin Baumgartner, Verre de Venise, pp.31 and 91, no.172), one in the Victoria and Albert Museum (see W.B.Honey, Handbook of the Collections, 1964, pl.32C), another in the British Museum, London (see Hugh Tait, The Golden Age of Venetian Glass, 1979, p.38, no.28), a fourth in the Württembergisches Landesmuseum, Stuttgart (formerly in the Ernesto Wolf Collection, see B.Klesse, European Glass from 1500-1800, no.8) and another in the Louvre Museum, Paris (Inv.OA1119). Four of the bowls mentioned all have their Latin inscriptions engraved in capital letters in the 'antique' on a gilt band applied to the exterior.

    George W. Field was born on 13 November 1798 and lived at Ashurst Park, a large house set in its own grounds close to Tunbridge Wells, Kent. When he assembled his art collection is unrecorded but Field appears to have been well-known as a collector of Renaissance and Mediaeval art to some of the leading connoisseurs of the day. On 17 September 1856 he was invited to lend items to the exhibition of the Art Treasures of the United Kingdom to be held in Manchester in 1857. The criteria for the choice of exhibits were largely based on the wide personal knowledge of British private collections by the noted German art historian Gustav Waagen. Amongst the numerous items inspected by J.B. Waring, the organiser of the Works of Art section, the present lot was selected for display. Further 16th century items, including ivories, bronzes and wood carvings were also selected. From the extensive list of his exhibits found in the City of Manchester archives, Field’s collection was both eclectic and diverse (M6/2/21). They included ‘Queen Elizabeth’s Prayer Book, silver gilt and enamelled, very rare and fine work’ (p.206), ‘A very fine crystal cup formerly part of the Crown Jewels of France, lately the property of Louis Philippe’, ‘2 carved ebony chairs from Strawberry Hill’ (p.140) and some fine Dutch 17th century oil paintings by several of the leading masters (M6/2/32). Of the glass that was returned to him after the closure of the exhibition ‘1 opal cup, 1 Venetian bowl, blue and finely enamelled, 3 cups of Ruby glass and 2 Venetian glass vases mounted’ are recorded. In the introduction to the section of the exhibition catalogue devoted to ‘The Museum of Ornamental Art’, Waring acknowledged the contributions of Earl Cadogan, Lord de Tabley, Mr. Field and the Duke of Buccleuch as ‘amongst the most remarkable examples’ (Catalogue, 1857, p.149). Field's glass was exhibited alongside that lent by Felix Slade who subsequently donated his extensive collection to the British Museum.

    Blue-tinted glasses and especially footed bowls of this type are well known in the corpus of Venetian production of the 15th and early 16th centuries. Indeed, Henry VIII of England is known to have had 'iii standing Cuppes of blewe glasses wt covers to theym paynted and guilte' (see D.Battie and S.Cottle, Sotheby's Concise Encyclopedia of Glass, p.60). In shape and form, one of the closest related examples to the present lot is the famous blue glass marriage bowl, commonly known as ‘The Angelo Barovier Cup’ (in the Museo Vetrario, Murano - see Barovier (1982), pp.74-78, no.70). Angelo Barovier was until recently credited with the fine enamel decoration. He was widely praised as one ‘who knew the whole of the art of glass’ and had won the respect of Alphonse, King of Naples, the French court and the Duke of Milan. The Barovier Cup is however now thought to date from 1470-1480, some ten years after Angelo’s death in 1460. As Hugh Tait has commented, almost nothing is known about the Venetians who decorated these chefs d’oeuvres of the Renaissance and not one single glass can be identified as the work of a particular artist.

    In recent years the dating of Venetian enamelled and gilt blue-tinted glass has been assisted by excavations of burial mounds in the Russian Caucasus. An area originally under the control of the Mongol khans of the Golden Horde (1226-1502), the archaeological evidence indicates that such glass was produced in Venice and traded via Italian colonies established along the Silk Road in the 14th and 15th centuries. They include complete examples of purple, green and blue glass decorated with scale and dot and lozenge and flower ornament typical of much of the existing material (see the article by Mark Kramarovsky, ‘The import and manufacture of glass in the territories of the Golden Horde’, published by Rachel Ward (ed), Gilded and Enamelled Glass from the Middle East, British Museum, 1998, pp.96-100). Kramarovsky, a curator at the Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, refers to several coloured Venetian glasses from the excavations now in the museum’s collection including a blue glass tankard (fig.22.5) decorated in enamels and gilding with flowers in diamond-shaped frames, found in Digoria (Northern Ossetia, Caucasus). This tankard is very similar to an example formerly in the Rothschild Collection attributed to the 19th century (Christie’s, 14 December 2000, lot 34).

    For similar figurative decoration, The Weoley Cup, a late 15th century Venetian clear glass goblet, has a provenance as early as 1547. Presented to The Worshipful Company of Founders in London by its Master, Richard Weoley, in 1642-43, this goblet is crucial in the early dating of such glass. According to Weoley, he had purchased the cup from a family whose ancestors had brought it back from Boulogne at the time it surrendered to Henry VIII in 1546. This story is given credibility through the London hallmarks on the silver-gilt foot, which can be dated to 1547 and thus provide the glass with an exceptionally early provenance (see the exhibition catalogue, Gothic: Art for England 1400-1547, Victoria & Albert Museum, 2003, p.208).

    The date of the acquisition by the Rothschilds of the present lot for their famed collection of Venetian and Islamic enamelled glass is unknown. Nonetheless, it may not be entirely coincidental that Baron Alphonse de Rothschild (1827-1905) married his English cousin Leonora in 1857. Her uncle, Sir Anthony Rothschild, was a major contributor to the Manchester Art Treasures exhibition in that same year, and may have come into contact with George Field. It is possible that Alphonse and Leonora visited the exhibition.

Saleroom notices

  • The enamels on the present lot were tested scientifically in 2002 by the Institut für Chemie of the Technische Universität Berlin. The composition of the enamels did not show evidence for a 19th century production date as was previously considered. Further research has revealed a Venetian enamelled and gilt blue glass goblet, attributed to the late 15th century, in the J. Paul Getty Museum, which bears an incised gilt band inscribed with Roman characters and scroll identical to those on the present lot. The goblet is illustrated by Catherine Hess, 'European Glass in the J Paul Getty Museum', published 1997, pp.84-86. The form and other decorative enamel features on this goblet have been favourably compared by the author to other important vessels with a 15th century attribution in the British Museum and the Kunstgewerbemuseum, Berlin. The decoration is similar to that found on an important set of blue-ground maiolica tiles forming a pavement in the palace of Pandolfo Petrucci, Siena, of which the largest assemblage is now on view in the Victoria and Albert Museum, dating to 1509. Amongst the many Romanesque designs on the tiles is included pairs of opposing winged sphinxes, their tails and wings creating cartouches with cherub's heads on stylised vases and pedestals together with pairs of outti, scroll and other vase forms
The Field Cup. A highly important Venetian enamelled and gilt blue-tinted standing bowl Late 15th century.
The Field Cup. A highly important Venetian enamelled and gilt blue-tinted standing bowl Late 15th century.
The Field Cup. A highly important Venetian enamelled and gilt blue-tinted standing bowl Late 15th century.
The Field Cup. A highly important Venetian enamelled and gilt blue-tinted standing bowl Late 15th century.
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