Prado show lifts the lid on the cases built to protect a French prince's treasures

The Madrid exhibition will feature 101 cases made from materials such as carved wood and velvet

The case for a jasper vase (around 1650-1711) Courtesy of the Museo Nacional del Prado

When Louis the Grand Dauphin of France died in 1711, his magnificent cache of jewel-encrusted chalices, bowls, and centrepieces passed to his son Philip V, the first Bourbon king of Spain. Executed in agate, diamonds,  jade, silver and gold, the treasures of the Dauphin are certainly splendid. But a new exhibition at Madrid’s Prado museum will argue that the vessels’ cases are works of art in their own right. Like their delicate, dazzling contents, the cases were created with great skill, from the finest materials: carved wood, wool, silk, velvet, and Moroccan leather stamped with golden motifs. Despite their grandeur, the cases have spent much of their lives in store. The 101 cases that will go on view have protected their precious cargo for hundreds of years, through conflicts such as the Spanish Civil War, when the museum was bombed. A cornerstone at the Prado since 1839, this collection is one of the most complete of its kind.

The Other Treasure: the Cases for the Dauphin’s Treasure, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 9 March-13 September

Appeared in The Art Newspaper, 321 March 2020