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Glass Cooler

A work made of gilt silver.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • A work made of gilt silver.


c. 1809-19


Martin-Guillaume Biennais (French, 1764-1843)
Probably designed after Charles Percier (French, 1764-1838) and
Pierre François Léonard Fontaine (French, 1762-1853)
Paris, France

About this artwork

The cool, bright nature of silver is exploited to great effect in this bowl, or verrière. Its decorative motif was also meant to create a chilly impression, showing swans, cattails, and playful dolphins above a band of aquatic plants. When this piece was made, guests at elegant dinner parties customarily consumed menus of many courses, each with its own carefully selected accompaniment from the wine cellar. In the days before modern refrigeration, serving chilled drinks was not as simple a task as it is today: the glasses themselves first had to be cooled on a bed of ice and then filled with vintages that were cooling in their own ice-filled silver containers. This verrière is part of a larger dinner service made for Pauline Bonaparte, sister of Napoleon, on the occasion of her marriage to the Roman nobleman Camillo Borghese, Sixth Prince of Sulmona. The coat of arms of the Borghese family is prominently displayed. Its iconography—an eagle above a winged dragon, surmounted by a crown—is somewhat obscure, but this crest had served the family at least since a previous Camillo Borghese was elected pope (as Paul the Fifth) in 1605.


Currently Off View


Applied Arts of Europe


Martin-Guillaume Biennais


Glass Cooler


Paris (Object made in)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.



Gilt silver


MARKS: “[lozenge with seated monkey and two pellets above B, maker’s mark] / [cock with 1 in right corner in horizontal octagonal shield, Paris assay mark, 1809-19],” on center of base and under surface of handles; “[helmeted dexter head of Minerva in circular shield, Paris excise mark, 1809-19] / [head of Apollo in oval shield, unofficial Paris assay mark, 1809-19],” on center of base INSCRIPTIONS: “Biennais Orfre de Lrs Mtes Imperiales et Royales à Paris,” engraved on center of base; “1628.24 [repairer’s number or inventory number],” scratched under surface of handles; “[Borghese armorials surmounted with Napoleonic Crown,]” embossed on center of body


12.7 × 22.4 × 33 cm (5 × 8 13/16 × 13 in.)

Credit Line

Gift of Mrs. Charles V. Hickox

Reference Number


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Extended information about this artwork

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