Sunday, December 28, 2014

Coupe des Ptolémées



Carved of onyx in Alexandria during roughly the same time when Jesus Christ was alive in nearby Judea, this two-handled cup is decorated with high-relief scenes of cult rituals in honor of Dionysus. By the early Middle Ages the cup had passed into French royal custody. It became one of the necessary, traditional implements of the French coronation regalia  during the ceremony, at the time of Holy Communion, new-crowned queens, century after century, would take ablution from this chalice. For this ceremonial purpose, the French had fitted the cup with jewel-encrusted mounts. During the chaos of the 1789 Revolution, the Cup of the Ptolemies disappeared. It was recovered in 1804, missing the golden mounts and precious stones. Due to that theft, posterity is able to see the cup as it came from the hand of its unknown maker. The crime, in that sense, was a fortunate misfortune.

 This object at present is preserved within the Département des Monnaies, Médailles et Antiques de la Bibliothèque nationale de France.