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For the first time in more than 150 years some of the most extraordinary and enigmatic treasures of the Renaissance, a set of 12 European silver-gilt standing cups - known as the ‘Aldobrandini Tazze’ – will be reunited and displayed together at Waddesdon Manor.
These beautiful table ornaments celebrate the Twelve Caesars, notorious rulers of ancient Rome. Each standing cup (or tazza) includes a portrait of one of the Caesars, as well as four episodes from his life on the supporting dish. The forty-eight vignettes bring to life the book, The Lives of the Twelve Caesars, by Roman historian Suetonius (written in the early second century AD).
One of the great mysteries surrounding the Silver Caesars is that no record exists to explain their origin. We do not know when the set was made, by whom, for whom, or for what purpose. However, new research revealed in the exhibition, curated by Julia Siemon of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, now goes some way to answering those question
To further complicate matters, the Silver Caesars were designed for easy disassembly to facilitate travel, and whilst the Caesar statuettes are labelled, the dishes are not. Therefore, in the centuries following their creation, the 12 tazze were taken apart, incorrectly re-assembled, misidentified, and then widely dispersed across Europe and the Americas. Two are now in the UK, one at the V&A and the other in a private collection. Today, only the Claudius cup remains in its entirely original state (private collection, on loan to The Metropolitan Museum, New York). Half of the tazze are in private collections and therefore rarely seen in public.
It is particularly relevant that the Silver Caesars: A Renaissance Mystery is being exhibited at Waddesdon as over the past two centuries nearly half theses tazze have at one-time formed part of Rothschild family collections. By 1872, Anselm – father of Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild, who built Waddesdon Manor – had in his Viennese collection a tazza made up of the Augustus figure and the Domitian dish. Pippa Shirley, Head of Collections at the Manor says: 'We are delighted to be working with the Metropolitan Museum on this extraordinary exhibition, which amongst other things illuminates an aspect of 19th-century collecting for which the Rothschilds were renowned. Baron Ferdinand devoted his Smoking Room at the Manor to his collection of 16th and 17th-century treasures, his own version of the great princely collections of Europe which were so admired from the Renaissance onwards.'
They will be on show for 12 weeks only from April 18th until July 22nd (Wednesday-Sunday).
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