Onyx Salt Cellar with a Golden Mermaid

This splendid little jewel is to be found inside the armoured chamber that contains the “Dauphin’s Treasure”, and which protects it as if it were a pirate’s treasure trove! It gets its name from the fact that it belonged to the French Dauphin, which is the name for the heir to the French throne. The Dauphin in question was the son of Louis XIV, who never lived to rule France. He in turn bequeathed it to his son, who ruled Spain under the name of Philip V, which is how it passed into the Spanish Royal Collections that are held in the Prado Museum.

This delicate piece is an onyx salt cellar, supported by the figure of a mermaid or siren, set with rubies and diamonds, on a pretty pedestal decorated with enamels.

Sirens were mythological creatures, half woman, half fish. They were very beautiful and also very wicked. Nothing like what you see in Walt Disney films! They would attract men to them with their singing, and then kill them. They first appeared in one of the episodes of The Odyssey, when Ulysses makes his sailors tie him to the mast of his ship so that he can listen to the sirens’ singing without being attracted to them and perishing.

(c) (R) 2013, MUSMon com S.L.
Text (a) Catalina Serrano Romero
English translation (a) Thisbe Burns