Holy-water stoup with relief of Mary of Egypt

Maker: Giovanni Giardini (Italian, Forlì 1646–1722 Rome)

Artist: Relief after a composition by Benedetto Luti (Italian, Florence 1666–1724 Rome)

Date: ca. 1702

Culture: Italian, Rome

Medium: Lapis lazuli, silver, and gilded bronze

Dimensions: Overall: 23 3/4 × 14 3/8 × 4 1/2 in. (60.3 × 36.5 × 11.4 cm)

Classification: Metalwork-Silver In Combination

Credit Line: Wrightsman Fund, 1995

Accession Number: 1995.110


The goldsmith and designer Giovanni Giardini made this object for Pope Clement XI (r. 1700–1712), who presented it to Giovanni Battista Borghese, King Philip V of Spain's ambassador to the Holy See. Later, it was part of the collection of the Princes of Thurn and Taxis in Sankt Emmeram Castle in Regensburg, Germany. Giardini's prized devotional objects were intended for private use or for small, intimate chapels. Their technical perfection is such that they outshine many fine works made in Rome during the same period. The combination of the light catching gilded metal and the lapis lazuli with its myriad flecks of sparkling golden pyrites has a mesmerizing effect. Lapis lazuli symbolizes the choir of saints in heaven, and the attention of the person using this stoup would be directed toward heaven, a treasury of everlasting joy. Set around the silver relief of Mary of Egypt in ecstacy, the lapis plaques also suggest that the saint is part of the company of heaven. A related object is preserved in the Schatzkammer, or Treasury, of the Residenz in Munich.