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Italian - Chalice, late 19th century


Chalice, late 19th century

Silver , 26 cm (10 1/4 in.)


Two years after Isabella Stewart Gardner purchased the bust of Florentine banker Bindo Altoviti by Benvenuto Cellini, she purchased another work by the acclaimed Renaissance sculptor—this chalice. Richard Norton, the son of art historian Charles Eliot Norton, claimed that an agent of the Vatican offered to sell him the chalice secretly.  Isabella recalled years later that she had been told that the chalice had to be sold quietly in order to raise money during the pontificate of Leo XIII (r. 1878–1903). Mrs. Gardner swore her staff to silence and did not display the object for several years. The chalice was used at her Christmas masses and for a final time at her funeral service in 1924.It was later revealed that the chalice was a forgery made shortly before Isabella purchased it.