The Lomellini ewer
Probably by Giovanni Aelbosca
Bearing town marks for Genoa for 1621 and 1622
Silver, cast, chased and embossed
Silversmith\'s mark: G A over B, probably for Giovanni Aelbosca, Belga, the basin inscribed 1621
The vase shaped ewer is supported on a circular foot with a square plinth. This foot is cast, formed of three highly stylised dolphins, alternating with grotesque bearded faces with their rising tails supporting a compressed knop. The lower part of the body is chased and embossed with alternate acanthus and palm leaves, and the centre with scenes of a Grimaldi general giving orders outside his tent and leading his troops into a combined sea and land battle. The flags flown by his troops are the Grimaldi standard and the Habsburg Saltaire (i.e. the Spanish flag). The shoulder of the ewer is embossed with a frieze of seamen, putti and prisoners. A baroque scroll shield of arms, divided “per fess”, (without tincture) is applied to the front. The neck, which is cast, is composed of two crouching satyrs at the front and a grotesque female demon supporting the large convoluted shell lip. The handle is cast as a double tailed triton wrestling with a satyr above and behind him; it rises from a grotesque beaked mask applied to the shoulder and attached to the shell lip by a stylised canine face.
This large ewer is paired with a basin and together they were originally part of a set of six. They were made in 1621 to 1622 and originally belonged to the wealthy and powerful merchant Lomellini family of Genoa. The Lomellini arms appear on the front of the ewer and the centre of the basin, and experts had previously thought that they were commissioned by a member of that family.
Somewhat confusingly, however, the ewer also bears the arms of the Grimaldi family. Furthermore, the event commemorated on both ewer and basin is thought to be the Battle of the Po (1431), in which Giovanni Grimaldi, Prince of Monaco, joined the Visconti of Genoa in their struggle against the Venetians. Four episodes from this battle are depicted on the rim of the basin, and the story is then continued on the body of the ewer and the well of the basin.
It has been suggested that the goldsmith may have used drawings by Lavazzo Tavarone (1556-1641), who worked on frescoes in the Palazzo Grimaldi. It is also possible that this ewer and basin were commissioned by the Grimaldi family and entered the collection of the Lomellini family at a later date.
Both pieces bear the mark of Genoa but were probably the work of a Flemish goldsmith, Giovanni Aelbosca Belga. It was not unusual for Flemish goldsmiths to be working in Genoa at this time as a large colony of Flemish artists also resided there in the early 17th century.
Purchased with assistance from the National Art Collections Fund