This is an Italian silver chalice. The four-sided base is decorated at the bottom with heads of putti alternating with foliage, and it has a seated figure of a woman at each corner. The stem extends upward from the base, and its widest section (sometimes known as the knop or node) includes caryatids, scrolls, and more putti heads. Resting on the stem is the golden cup. The lower half of the cup is covered with a complex silver web with two horizontal layers containing numerous figures and scenes, and the top half is plain and has a slightly flared rim.
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.