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Royal Collection © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
A design for a lidded cup
A pen and ink design for a lidded standing cup.
Etienne Delaune was the son of Lèonard Delaune, a royal tailor. He worked in Paris for much of his career, encountering trouble in 1545 for undertaking goldsmith’s work without a licence. Delaune appears to have taken up printmaking in 1561, issuing a number of engravings over the next 20 years. In 1573, a year after the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, he moved to Strasbourg, a city more in line with his Calvinist beliefs. For the last few years of his life he appears to have travelled between Strasbourg and Paris, dying in the latter city in 1583.
Etienne is best known as a designer of goldsmith’s work - coins, medals and armour - drawings for which survive in a number of collections, particularly the Louvre in Paris and the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. Many of his designs for jewellery and coins are on a tiny scale, and it is probably for this reason that he tended to work on vellum, which has a smoother surface than paper and is more suited to very detailed drawing. A number of his drawings, including this one, were probably made as presentation pieces for patrons, to facilitate approval of a design before an object was made.
This drawing of a lidded cup displays Delaune’s talent for capricious invention. Here the stem of the cup is formed of nude women who link arms, their legs twisted into barley-sugar columns. The knop is a figure of Neptune astride a seahorse. Delaune has envisaged pearls hanging from the bowl of the cup and a precious stone set into the foot, which is decorated with dolphins. This design was probably intended as a presentation drawing.
Catalogue entry adapted from 'The Northern Renaissance. Dürer to Holbein', London 2011