A pair of rare, high quality Toledo, silver cups

Objektnummer  166

Toledo, ca.1650

Mark: TO ligated for Toledo

See: Fernández, Alejandro; Munoa, Rafael; Rabasco, Jorge (ed.): Enciclopedia de la Plata española y Virreinal americana, Madrid 1984, p. 223, No. 1296

height: 8 cm, weight: 334 g.

Detaillierte Informationen

The two high-quality silver cups were made in Toledo, Spain in the mid-17th century. They clearly belong together in form and decor and make up a rarely preserved ensemble.

Both cups are identical: The richly decorated cuppa, built of an oval shape, rises above a double-profiled pedestal. An upward tapering, pointed handle has been added elegantly. Six protruding acanthus tendrils, rise up vividly from the delicately twisted pedestal of the cup. They are bundled in the middle and are crowned by bucrania heads (ox skulls decorated with leaves). These are framed by an engraved, stylized leaf  cartouche. The upper third of the cup is decorated with two horizontal ornamental ribbons: a finely-crafted, narrow, chain-like ornamental ribbon, which, according to Larousse, resembles a “piécettes” frieze. Above it, a stylized ornamental frieze composed of geometric patterns: the latter consists of alternately attached, round and rectangular “imitation gemstones” (made of silver) and stylized lizards. Both friezes are framed by a ribbon at the top and bottom.


Domestic silver from the Spanish Golden Age:

Early Spanish silver objects intended for domestic use have survived very rarely -. The two beautiful cups with high quality decoration were made in Toledo around the middle of the 17th century. The so-called “Jarros de Pico”, have survived from this time. They were intended as pouring vessels, mostly for domestic use..

Our two Toledo cups are closely related in style to the so-called “Jarros de Pico” from the second half of the 16th century. They were manufactured in well-known goldsmith centers in Castile such as Seville, Cordoba and Toledo, in the “Philip II style”: this style combined classic forms with architectural decorative elements and influenced the execution of the “Jarros de Pico” well into the mid-17th century. The classic shape of the vessel, clear structure with horizontal ornament bands, and the use of antiquing decorative elements were characteristics of this important era of Spanish goldsmithing and are also evident in our two drinking vessels. Naturally, our cups do not have the “mascarons” spout that is functionally required for the “Jarros de Pico”.

According to Charles Oman, no marked goldsmith objects from the 16th century have survived from Toledo. Nevertheless, it is known to us through written sources that there was an important center of goldsmithing there.

The executing goldsmith of our vessels was obviously inspired by objects such as the “Jarro de Pico” by Hernando de Ballesteros from Seville. A “Jarro de Pico”, which can possibly be attributed to the Sevillian goldsmith Pedro de Zubieta and was made between 1587 and 1597, shows very similar decoration. It is located in the Instituto de Valencia de Don Juan, which holds what is probably the most important collection of Spanish pouring vessels. The great similarity of these “Jarros de Pico” to our Toledo cups is visible in the subdivision of the cup into three horizontal ornament fields of varying widths, sixbundled acanthus tendrils rising up from the twisted foot, all crowned with bucrania and surrounded by a  framing cartouche. Bucrania which seem to grow out ofacanthus tendrils are known from other objects with Castilian  or Aragonese origin, which datefrom the second half of the 16th century (see Fig. 224 in the catalog of the Victoria and Albert Museum from 1968).

The ornamental frieze with “imitation gemstones” and stylized lizards, as well as the frieze consisting of chain-links or “piécettes “, indicate a combination of European and non-European decorative forms: In the 17th century, influences of non-European ornamental shapes from the areas traveled by Spaniards emerged in Spanish goldsmithing. A silver chest from the middle of the 17th century with Toledo stamps takes on the ornamental shapes of an ivory chest from South India or Ceylon. During the course of Spanish excursions and conquests in the 1520s, the first Mexican art treasures had already reached Continental Europe under Emperor Charles V. Foreign forms of ornament from previously unexplored regions of the world reached Europe and fascinated artists such as Albrecht Dürer.

How close the exchange of the “New Spanish countries” as Guatemala, Mexico and South America with Spain was, is particularly evident in the goldsmith´s work from Mexico, which was also referred to as “Nueva España”: the goldsmith’s workshops there were very strictly controlled by the Spanish mother country. The objects had up to four different goldsmith marks, including the “Corona”, while Castilian objects from the 17th century usually have two marks: the master and the hallmark. Charles Oman emphasizes that the Spanish goldsmith’s objects can only be distinguished from the Mexican goldsmith’s works by their marks. Even if the geometric frieze on the upper edge of the cuppa reminds of representations of stylized lizards, as were common in Mexico and Polynesia, our cups clearly have the continental Spanish brand TO, which speaks for their origin in Toledo.

The two wonderfully crafted, high-quality cups from Spain are not only special because of their good condition as a couple, but also reflect a significant part of Spanish cultural history due to their elaborate and unusual decoration.


Esteras Martín, Cristina: Marcas de platería hispanoamericana, siglos XVI – XX, Madrid 1992, p. XVI-XXXIII (on the goldsmith’s art and goldsmith’s brands in Mexico, Guatemala and South America), p. XXII (on the chain-like frieze on a Mexican “Jarro de Pico “).

Fernández, Alejandro; Munoa, Rafael; Rabasco, Jorge (ed.): Enciclopedia de la Plata española y Virreinal americana, Madrid 1984, p. 223, No. 1296 (on the Toledo brand) p. 408, No. 1233 (on the “Jarro de Pico” by Hernando Ballesteros) as well as p. 468 (comparison objects).

Fernández, Alejandro; Munoa, Rafael; Rabasco, Jorge (ed.): Marcas de la Plata Española y Virreinal, Madrid 1992, pp. 17, 117-122 (on Toledo brands).

Gell, Alfred: Art and Agency: An Anthropological Theory, Oxford University Press 1998, p. 171, (8.7, The table of Etua Motifs).

Larousse, Pierre: Larousse universel en 2 volumes. Nouveau dictionnaire encyclopédique, publié sous la direction de Claude Augé, Paris 1922, p. 441 (Ornements).

Montalvo, Martin; Francisco, Javier: Los Jarros de Pico del Instituto de Valencia de Don Juan. In: Goya, Revista de arte, No. 276, 2000, pp. 167-175, esp. p. 167, fig. 1 (“Jarro de Pico” from Seville possibly by Pedro de Zubieta?).

Oman, Charles (ed.): The Golden Age of Hispanic Silver 1400-1665. (Victoria and Albert Museum), London 1968, p. xxiii-xxvi (on the Spanish Renaissance and the Toledo goldsmith’s art), p. xxviii-xxx (on the style of Philip II) and on the Castilian silver stamps (xxxi-xxxiii), Fig. 224, Cat. No. 127, 128 (comparison objects), Fig. 265, 266 (on the Toledo chest).