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Exhibitions/ The Silver Caesars: A Renaissance Mystery

The Silver Caesars: A Renaissance Mystery

At The Met Fifth Avenue
December 12, 2017–March 11, 2018

Exhibition Catalogue

A major contribution to the study of Renaissance silver, this groundbreaking volume reveals new findings about these dazzling treasures.

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Exhibition Overview

This exhibition is dedicated to the extraordinary set of twelve silver-gilt standing cups known collectively as the Aldobrandini Tazze. The tazze are reunited and displayed together for the first time since the mid-nineteenth century, when the objects were disassembled and dispersed, their constituent parts misidentified and mismatched. The exhibition thus provides visitors with a rare opportunity to appreciate one of the finest and most enigmatic monuments of sixteenth-century goldsmiths' work. Properly reassembled, the tazze bring to life the history of the first twelve Caesars, as recounted by the Roman historian Suetonius. Each stands over a foot high and is composed of a shallow footed dish surmounted by the figure of one of the Caesars; four scenes from Suetonius's Life of the relevant ruler appear intricately wrought upon the concave interior of each dish.

The Silver Caesars highlights the elegance and erudition of the tazze, presenting them together with a small selection of relevant works in silver as well as in other media—including both ancient and Renaissance coins and medals, and Renaissance prints, books, and paintings. The exhibition also addresses the set's later history by presenting eighteenth- and nineteenth-century works that the tazze inspired. In addition to offering new insights into the tazze and their history, the exhibition also explores the set's famously mysterious reputation—engaging the visitor in tracing clues that may lead to a better understanding of this Renaissance masterpiece.

Featured Media


The Life of Nero


The Life of Vitellius

"Tremendous" —Vulture

"Dazzling … One cannot but marvel" —Wall Street Journal

"Breathtakingly luxurious" —The Florentine

"A magnificent spectacle" "Rigorously installed" "Featuring meticulous research …" —Il Manifesto

"Met's team pieces together [the tazze's] elusive backstory" —The Art Newspaper

"Now, more than four centuries after the Silver Caesars were created, and following years of painstaking research … the emperors have been reunited" —The Times of London

"An exquisite assembly … This is the Renaissance crawling into the guise of ancient Rome in decorative works that lift to bliss." —New York

The exhibition is made possible by The Schroder Foundation, Selim K. Zilkha, the Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Foundation, Nina von Maltzahn, and an anonymous donor.

The publication is made possible by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in

Related Content

Four silver Caesars, detached

Read "Decoding the Silver Caesars," a Now at The Met interview with Cambridge classicist Mary Beard and Assistant Research Curator Julia Siemon, in two parts. Part One takes us on a walk through the exhibition. Part Two explores the hidden connections between the silver images and an ancient Latin text.

Exhibition Objects

Above: Anonymous (Netherlandish?) goldsmith. Detail of the Domitian dish from the Aldobrandini Tazze, ca. 1587–99. Gilded silver, 15 1/2 in. (39.5 cm) diam. Minneapolis Institute of Art, The James Ford Bell Family Foundation Fund, The M. R. Schweitzer Fund, and The Christina N. and Swan J. Turnblad Memorial Fund. Below: Anonymous (Netherlandish?). Detail of the Titus dish from the Aldobrandini Tazze, ca. 1587–99. Gilded silver, 14 3/4 in. (37.6 cm) diam. Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, Lisbon