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.
- Martin-Guillaume Biennais
- Glass Cooler
- Silver gilt
- 12.7 × 22.4 × 33 cm (5 × 8 13/16 × 13 in.)
- Gift of Mrs. Charles V. Hickox