Covered glass humpen

Tyrol or Innsbruck, Austria, second half of the 16th century AD

The double headed eagle of the Holy Roman Empire

This tall, cylindrical drinking glass is commonly known as a humpen, literally, 'mug' or 'tankard'. This example is made of soda glass, which is not always colourless. The tinges of brown, grey or green in the glass are due to chemical imperfections rather than to a deliberate attempt to create coloured glass.

It is engraved using a diamond. This technique, known as diamond-point engraving, was practised in Italy from the middle of the sixteenth century, and afterwards became popular in northern Europe. The engraving is embellished with gold.

The double-headed eagle is the emblem of the Holy Roman Empire: Archduke Ferdinand II (1520-95), a member of the Habsburg Imperial family, lived at Schloss Ambras, near Innsbruck, and set up a glasshouse there in 1552. European monarchs and rulers of smaller courts often supported such artistic enterprises as porcelain or faience factories and glasshouses. The products were frequently used for propaganda purposes, many being decorated with the ruler's monogram or political imagery. Reichsadlerhumpen, or Imperial Eagle beakers, painted in enamels with elaborate armorials or other motifs, were made from the sixteenth century through to the eighteenth century, in various glasshouses within the Empire. They were much collected in the nineteenth century, and frequently reproduced on an industrial scale.

Find in the collection online

More information


D.B. Harden and others, The British Museum: masterpiec (London, 1968)


Height: 36.400 cm

Museum number

M&ME 1881,6-26,7


Gift of Sir A.W. Franks


Find in the collection online

Search highlights

There are over 4,000 highlight objects to explore