Claes Oldenburg

Anonymous (Netherlandish?) Goldsmith, The Vespasian Tazza (detail), ca. 1587-99 (the gilding later). Silver-gilt. Private collection, London

The Silver Caesars at the Metropolitan Museum

‘The Silver Caesars: A Renaissance Mystery’, on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on December 12, 2017, to March 11, 2018, is dedicated to the extraordinary set of 12 silver-gilt standing cups known collectively as the Aldobrandini Tazze.

Source: Metropolitan Museum

In the exhibition the Tazze will be reunited and displayed together for the first time since the mid-19th century, when the objects were disassembled and dispersed, their constituent parts misidentified and mismatched. Properly reassembled, the Tazze bring to life the history of the first twelve Caesars, as recounted by the Roman historian Suetonius. Each stands over a foot high, and is comprised of a shallow footed dish surmounted by the figure of one of the Caesars; four scenes from Suetonius’s Life of the relevant ruler appear intricately wrought upon the concave interior of each dish. The exhibition thus provides visitors with a rare opportunity to appreciate one of the finest and most enigmatic monuments of 16th-century goldsmiths’ work.

”The Silver Caesars” highlights the elegance and erudition of the Tazze, presenting them with a small selection of relevant works in silver as well as in other media, including both ancient and Renaissance coins and medals, and Renaissance prints, books, and paintings. The show also addresses the set’s later history by presenting 18th- and 19th-century works that the Tazze inspired. A digital component enables visitors to explore the Tazze and their fantastic antiquarian imagery in greater depth. In addition to offering new insights into the Tazze and their history, the exhibition explores the set’s famously mysterious reputation—engaging the visitor in tracing clues that may lead us towards a better understanding of this Renaissance masterpiece.

”The Silver Caesars: A Renaissance Mystery” is organized by Julia Siemon, Assistant Research Curator in The Met’s Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts.

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