Height: 198.000 mm
Room 46: Europe 1400-1800
Glass flask with a portrait of Henry VII, King of England
From Venice, Italy, around AD 1500
With the King's emblem of portcullis and chains in a sunburst
On one side of the flask is a portrait medallion of Henry VII, king of England (1485-1509) and on the other, his personal emblem of portcullis and chains in a sunburst.
Lattimo glass ('milky glass') was developed, like maiolica (tin-glazed earthenware), to rival the white surface of Chinese porcelain that was so prized throughout Europe. Lattimo glass, and coloured glass of varying shades of blue, green and turquoise, was perfected in Venice before the end of the fifteenth century. Lattimo and coloured glass with luxurious gilt and enamelled decoration was especially popular in the European courts. The painted enamels and applied gold leaf was carried out by specialists, among whom was Giovanni Maria Obizzo, working around 1488-1525.
It is possible that Obizzo decorated this flask as a special commission; it may have been one of the gifts for Henry VII, brought to London in 1506 on behalf of Guidobaldo da Montefeltro, duke of Urbino (1482-1508). Henry's portrait and emblem may have been copied directly from a coin. The distinctive shape of the flask, particularly the ring handles, is based on contemporary tin-glazed earthenware that was extremely fashionable in northern Europe.
T.H. Clarke, 'Lattimo – a group of Venetian glass enamelled on an opaque white ground', Journal of Glass Studies-3, 16 (1974), pp. 22-56
H. Tait (ed.), Five thousand years of glass (London, The British Museum Press, 1991)