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Cup and cover - Cup and cover

Cup and cover

  • Object:

    Cup and cover

  • Place of origin:

    Tuscany (made)

  • Date:

    1681 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Ferdinando, Gran Principe (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:


  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Europe 1600-1815, Room 6, The Lisa and Bernard Selz Gallery, case CA6 []

This is a set of an ivory cup and cover made by Gran Principe Ferdinando de' Medici of Tuscany (1663-1713) in 1681. This cup and cover is in pentagonal shape with eccentric turned mouldings. The stem is an open spiral coil. Inside the cup is the inscription; 'Princeps F. MDCLXXXI'. It was turned by the Medici Prince (the son of Grand Duke Cosimo III) under the tutelage of Philip Senger(Filippo Sengher; active in Florence 1675-1704), who was the court-turner of ivory for the Medici Court in Florence. A turned ivory box and lid in the Museo degli Argenti, Florence, similarly signed and dated 1678 testifies to the Prince's early proficiency in his hobby.
This piece is an example of the 'extraordinary passion for the lathe turning' in princely households, the product of a 'princeps artifex' (MacGregor 2007, p. 43).

Physical description

Ivory, of pentagonal shape with eccentric turned mouldings; the stem is an open spiral coil. Inscription. The main body of the cup is composed of three pieces of ivory fitted together. The lid comprises two main pieces, as well as a knop surmounting the whole.

Place of Origin

Tuscany (made)


1681 (made)


Ferdinando, Gran Principe (artist)

Materials and Techniques


Marks and inscriptions

'Princeps F. MDCLXXXI'
inside the cup


Height: 33.8 cm whole, Width: 10.2 cm, Height: 34.5 cm, Width: 12.5 cm, Depth: 10 cm

Object history note

This object was purchased in 1865 for £7 12s., from a sale of the collection of James Alexandre, Comte de Pourtalès (1776-1855), held as his hôtel , rue Tronchet, no. 7, Paris, 6 March 1865, lot 1544, where many Italian art objects were being sold as a result of their flooding the market after the Napolenic wars.

Descriptive line

Cup and cover, ivory, by Prince Ferdinand de'Medici of Tuscany, under the tutelage of Filippo Sengher, Italian (Tuscany), ca. 1681

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Inventory of Art Objects acquired in the Year 1865. Inventory of the Objects in the Art Division of the Museum at South Kensington, arranged According to the Dates of their Acquisition. Vol. 1. London : Printed by George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode for H.M.S.O., 1868, p. 31
Klaus, Maurice. Der drechselnde Souverän: Materialien zu einer fürstlichen Maschinenkunst, Zurich: Ineichen, 1985, p. 153, fig. 94
Longhurst, Margaret H. Catalogue of Carvings in Ivory. London: Published under the Authority of the Board of Education, 1927-1929, Part II, p. 90
Diafane passioni. Avori barocchi dalle corti europee, exh. cat., Palazzo Pitti, Museo degli Argenti, Florence (16 July – 3 November 2013), Florence, 2013, cat. no. 36, p. 152
Trusted, Marjorie, Baroque & Later Ivories, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 2013, cat. no. 290, p. 297
MacGregor, A., Curiosity and Enlightenment. Collectors and Collections from the Sixteenth to the Nineteenth Century, New Haven and London, 2007, p. 43, fig. 32

Labels and date

Italian, Florence; dated 1681
By Grand Prince Ferdinando Of Tuscany (1663-1713)

The inscription inside the cup (Princeps F. MDCLXXXI) shows that it was made by the Medici prince, the son of Grand Duke Cosimo III de’ Medici. He was taught in the art of turning by the court turner of ivory, Philip Senger (active in Florence 1675-1704; an example of his work can be seen in the adjacent gallery). This art was practised by noble gentlemen and another example signed by the prince (dated 1678) shows that he became good at turning while still young.

[1993 - 2011]




Sculpture; Containers; Vases


Sculpture Collection

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