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Jean-Valentin Morel (French, 1794-1860)

Commissioned in 1854 by Honoré-Théodoric-Paul-Joseph d'Albert, Duke of Luynes (1802-1867); auctioned at Sotheby's, Paris in 2003; (S.J. Philips Ltd., London); purchased by the Indianapolis Museum of Art in 2004 (2004.27).

Indianapolis Museum of Art: Highlights of the Collection (2005)

Decorated with precious rubies, emeralds, and sapphires, this hardstone cup is a sumptuous example of the work of Jean-Valentin Morel, one of the most accomplished jewelers, silversmiths, and lapidaries of 19th-century Paris. The cup's contour reveals the gem cutter's extraordinary skill: the hard, dark green, highly polished, semiprecious bloodstone seems to have been utterly pliant in his hands. In fact, Morel's method of carving stone produced a suppleness of form that is rivaled only by the finest known works of ancient Greece and Rome.

Despite Morel's talent, achievements, and fame, he endured several business and financial setbacks. He did, however, find an important patron in Honoré-Théodoric-Paul-Joseph d'Albert, duke of Luynes, a noted archaeologist and art collector. In 1854, the duke commissioned this cup and gave Morel two cameos to decorate it. Two cast-gold female figures with wings enameled in red, blue, and green form the cup's handles. A garland of individually cast gold-and-enamel flowers adorns each side. The overall design was inspired by Renaissance and Baroque hardstone vases. The cup was publicly displayed in 1855 at the Paris World Fair, where Morel received the Grand Medal.

There is a man . . . who may [now] style himself the best jeweler in Europe, and the best craftsman at the 1855 [World] Fair: our readers have elected M. Morel.
-L'Illustration, 1855

Object Information

Jean-Valentin Morel (French, 1794-1860)
creation date
bloodstone (jasper), gold, enamels, emeralds, rubies, sapphires, cameos
11 x 10 x 7 in.
mark descriptions
Marks on top of gold band of mount on stem (Ajax cameo side): Maker's mark for Jean-Valentin Morel | Marks on top of gold band of mount on stem (Ajax cameo side): head of horse turned to the right (poincon de petite garantie) (warranty) | ...see Notes tab...
accession number
credit line
Dennis T. Hollings Memorial Fund and the Robertine Daniels Art Fund in memory of her late husband, Richard Monroe Fairbanks Sr., and her late son, Michael Fairbanks
Public Domain
Decorative Arts

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