Chalice à soleil

Date: 1532–33

Culture: French, Paris

Medium: Gilded silver

Dimensions: Height: 8 1/4 in. (21 cm)

Classification: Metalwork-Silverplate

Credit Line: Purchase, Mr. and Mrs. John H. Gutfreund Gift, 1996

Accession Number: 1996.287


This chalice, made in the early French Renaissance, is decorated with motifs that derived from the late medieval period: wavy sun rays on the bowl and dome of the foot, which evoke the meditation on the Sacred Monogram as preached by Saint Bernardin of Siena (d. 1444), and lily petals, a symbol of the Virgin. The projecting twelve semicircles of the foot and the twelve bosses of the knop are references to the apostles. These lively features are joined by others taken from the more static repertoire of classical ornament derived from Roman architecture: a stem formed as a fluted column, the flutes alternately channeled; beading at the junction of stem and foot; acanthus on the upper and lower poles of the knop; and a wreath encircling the step of the foot. Fleurs-de-lis, emblems of the French crown, are, strangely, found here as also on other French liturgical objects of the sixteenth century and may refer to the control over the church in France won by Francis I from Pope Leo X by the Concordat of Bologna in 1515. A shield-shaped frame on the foot encloses an insert engraved with the arms, episcopal hat, and angelic supporters of Bishop Fabio Mirto Frangipani. He was papal nuncio to the court of Charles IX from 1568 to 1572 and again in 1585. Engraved in the Fontainebleau style, this plaque replaces an earlier insert, which may have been enameled with a Crucifixion scene or engraved with the arms of the previous owner.