Silver-gilt ewer and basin

A masterpiece of the Mannerist style

The Ewer: Probably from Antwerp, Belgium, mid-16th century AD
The Basin: From Antwerp, Belgium, AD 1546-7

This object is now on display in a new gallery on the ground floor, Room 2a: The Waddesdon Bequest.

The well of the basin is inscribed with the arms of Robert de Lynden. There is documentation to show that the two have been a pair since his death in 1610.

The silver-gilt ewer and basin are both heavily embossed, chased and engraved. The decoration in relief has been produced by raising the surface of the silver from the reverse (embossing), after which the surface was worked on the front (chasing). The ewer has a pouring lip, and unusually for this form, a high spout. On each side are roundels containing a scene of Neptune and Amphitrite, his wife. The rest of the body is covered with a profusion of Mannerist ornament; elaborate strapwork is filled with terms, masks, grotesques, snails, snakes and foliage. There are animal-like monsters on the spout and lip, supported by a female caryatid figure and a grotesque satyr in high relief. The complex decorative detail is a triumph of the Mannerist style of Antwerp, and is based on contemporary engravings of ornament, probably by the Antwerp master engraver Cornelis Bos (about 1510-1556).

The broad flat border of the basin has six cartouches containing biblical scenes from the Old Testament: the destruction of Pharaoh's army in the Red Sea, and five of the plagues of Egypt (the plagues of frogs; boils and blains; the firstborn of Egypt slain; hail and locusts). The scenes probably relate to theories of kingship and justice, themes that were common in northern Europe at this time. Each cartouche is linked by Mannerist ornament: a basket, with a satyr, Pan figure or nymph enclosed within the extending strapwork.

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More information


H. Tait, Catalogue of the Waddesdon B-1 (London, 1988)


Height: 33.900 cm (ewer)
Diameter: 11.800 cm (ewer)
Weight: 1902.000 g (ewer)
Diameter: 11.800 cm (ewer)
Weight: 1902.000 g (ewer)

Museum number

M&ME Waddesdon Bequest 89;M&ME Waddesdon Bequest 90


Bequeathed by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild


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