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standing cup

  • Object type

  • Museum number

    WB.112

  • Description

    Standing cup and cover; body and cover formed of ostrich egg-shell mounted in silver, chased in bold relief and gilded; body held by three vertical bands, each chased with cupid mask, terminal figures and scrollwork; lip engraved with three medallions containing busts with elaborate scrolls between; horizontal mount at top chased with strapwork frames containing lion masks, fruit, etc.; foot similar; baluster stem with masks, interlacing scrolls and terminal monsters; cover: engraved scroll border with three lion masks; centre: female figure holding disc in one hand and two shields in other, one with hare springing from three mounts, saltire and monogram on other; inside cover a medallion with figure of Justice with sword and scales.

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  • Producer name

  • Date

    • 1550-1575
    • 1800-1898 (alterations)
  • Production place

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 37 centimetres
    • Diameter: 11.6 millimetres (cup)
    • Diameter: 11.1 centimetres (foot)
    • Diameter: 8.9 centimetres (bowl rim)
    • Diameter: 10.1 centimetres (cover)
    • Weight: 981 grammes
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Type

        mark
      • Inscription Position

        body
      • Inscription Content

        1554
      • Inscription Type

        monogram
      • Inscription Position

        shield
      • Inscription Content

        VD
  • Curator's comments

    Associated dates : 1554.

    Compare strapwork with lip of salt on Calvary Salt Cellar dated 1550 in Schroder Collection, Schroder 2007, no. 54, made in Nuremberg in Jamnitzer circle.Text from Tait 1991a:-

    Origin: German; no silver punch-marks; probably Nuremberg, third quarter of 16th century, with later alterations and additions.

    Marks: No punch-marks have been struck on any part of this piece.

    Provenance: In Read 1902, it is stated to have come “from the Ellenborough Collection”; however, it has yet to be established that Baron Ferdinand Rothschild made this acquisition as a result of a private negotiation with Charles Edmund Law, who was created Baron Ellenborough in 1871, after he had succeeded his uncle, Edward Law. The latter, having been Governor-General of India from 1841 to 1844, was created Earl of Ellenborough in 1844 and then First Lord of the Admiralty in 1846. This ostrich-egg cup may, therefore, have belonged to both the Earl and his nephew. The latter died at his home, 6 Buckingham Gate, Hyde Park, in 1890 aged seventy, and, although there was an auction sale of his collection at Christie's on 28 May 1895, there is no mention of this ostrich-egg cup in the sale catalogue.

    Commentary: In the absence of any marks, this standing-cup and cover has hitherto been published as “German, 1554”. However, in the light of its heavily altered appearance a re-examination of the evidence for such an early dating is essential. It appears to rest solely on the presence of the engraved date, 1554 (within the field of the roundel depicting a crowned bearded king); unfortunately, the engraving of the date is particularly gauche and gives the impression of having been added at a later date, presumably in the mid-nineteenth century. In particular the '4', which could not be accommodated with the rest of the date (on the left of the roundel), has been most incompetently engraved, being not only out of scale but also overlapping both the inner frame and the edge of the beard. Since the authenticity of the engraved numerals 1554 cannot be established, the cast reliefs on the base and on the strap-mounts provide the only reliable evidence for the dating of the original cup.
    Fortunately, the circular relief on the upper tier of the base is identical to the securely documented version in lead that has long been associated with the workshop of Wenzel Jamnitzer (1508-85), the famous goldsmith of Nuremberg. Although the lead version has been frequently discussed and illustrated in the literature on Jamnitzer since M. Rosenberg, ‘Jamnitzer, Alle erhaltenen Goldschmiedearbeiten. Verlorene Werke. Handzeichungen’, Frankfurt, 1920, none of the authors had realised that a version in silver existed in the Waddesdon Bequest and that it forms the upper stage of the base of this ostrich-egg cup.
    The lead version in Basle has been preserved since before the end of the sixteenth century in the historic Amerbach Cabinet, one of the greatest humanist private collections of the Renaissance to be created north of the Alps (see I. Weber, ‘Deutsche, Niederländische und Französische Renaissanceplaketten 1500-1650’, Munich, 1975, p. 156, no. 257, pl. 72; also ‘Kabinettstücke der Amerbach’, Historisches Museum, Basle, 1984). Basilius Amerbach (died 1591) is known to have added significantly to the already remarkable family collection which he had inherited in 1562, and would most probably have been responsible for acquiring the few Jamnitzer lead reliefs that are today preserved in the Amerbach Cabinet. This particular relief has already been published as a “mid-16th century model for a foot” (Weber 1975, p. 156, no. 257, pl. 72, where reference is also made to the publication of a similar relief on the cover of the famous Augsburg silver-gilt water jug, formerly in the Ambras Collection (before 1596) and now in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, in E. Kris, ‘Golschmeidearbeiten des Mittelalters, der Renaissance und des Barock. I Teil: Arbeiten in Gold und Silber’, Publikationen aus den Kunsthistorischen Summlungen in Wien, Band 5, Vienna, 1932, pp. 37-8, no. 55, pls 18 and 82). The lead relief in Basle has been discussed in relation to the Jamnitzer sketchbook in the Berlin Kunstbibliothek (in Klaus Pechstein, ‘Goldschmiedewerke der Renaissance: Kataloge des Kunstgewerbemuseums Berlin, Band V’, Berlin, 1971, p. 254, fig. 1) but it has never before been found - or considered - in association with the 'pilaster-like' relief decorating each of the three vertical strap-mounts of this ostrich-egg cup in the Waddesdon Bequest.
    Disregarding for the moment the superimposed cartouche with the large putto head in the middle of each of three vertical strap-mounts, the rest of the decoration in relief is identical to a lead version in the Clemens
    Collection in the Cologne Kunstgewerbe Museum (see Weber 1975, p. 283, no. 642, pl. 173, where the relief has been attributed to a German workshop, perhaps in the North-west, in the third quarter of the sixteenth century). Indeed, the style of the relief decoration is not dissimilar in general character to that used as a frieze around the drum-shaped bowls of the Tucher covered cups of 1568 by the Nuremberg goldsmith Christoph Lindenberger, who became a master in 1546 and died in 1586 (see Hugh Tait, ‘Catalogue of the Waddesdon Bequest in the British Museum: Vol. II. The Silver Plate’, London, 1988, pp. 111-21, nos 14-15, figs 105-6).
    However, the superimposing of a cartouche with a large putto head is an ingenious piece of adaptation which once again seems characteristic both of mid-sixteenth-century Nuremberg workshop practice and of the sculptural style favoured by the leading goldsmiths in that city at that time. It can be compared with the slightly different solution being favoured by the contemporary goldsmiths in Augsburg, especially Theophil Glaubich (died 1572), who worked for the Archduke Ferdinand of Tyrol, the Emperor Maximilian II and the Munich Court. His very similar type of applied cartouche - but enclosing a female head - can be seen on his tall double-cup (H. 46.5 cm) preserved in the Moscow Kremlin (see Tait 1988, p. 158, fig. 151; also H. Seling, ‘Die Kunst de Augsburger Goldschmiede 1529-1868’ 3 vols., Munich, 1980, p. 247, fig. 129, where it is dated “um 1565-1570”). Despite the differences, both the Nuremberg and Augsburg versions were at their most fashionable soon after the middle of the century.
    On the evidence of the reliefs (both on the base and on the strap-mounts), the engraved date of 1554 therefore cannot be faulted, although it would seem to be about as early a date for this type of decoration as could be expected in a German centre. Indeed, only by the third quarter of the century were the craftsmen in the major centres of Southern Germany beginning to produce those innumerable variations on that basic decorative scheme, which has been used so successfully by the engraver of the rim of the bowl of this cup. The combination of busts in roundels between panels of differing patterns of foliate interlace and strapwork arabesques - made readily available through the published books of engraved designs of the 1550s - was found to be particularly suitable for decorating the borders of dishes and plates - and, of course, the broad rim-mounts of bowls, such as on this ostrich-egg cup.
    In conclusion, the absence of all marks from a German mounted cup of the third quarter of the sixteenth century is not unexpected, even in a leading centre like Nuremberg. Consequently, an attribution of these very important mounts - excluding the stem and the cover - to Wenzel Jamnitzer's workshop or to a Nuremberg goldsmith working within the sphere of Jamnitzer's influence seems fully justified.

    Bibliography: Charles Hercules Read, ‘The Waddesdon Bequest: Catalogue of the Works of Art bequeathed to the British Museum by Baron Ferdinand Rothschild, M.P., 1898’, London, 1902, no. 112, pl. XXVII; O.M. Dalton, ‘The Waddesdon Bequest’, 2nd edn (rev), British Museum, London, 1927, no. 112, pl. XIV; Hugh Tait, 'Catalogue of the Waddesdon Bequest in the British Museum. II. The Curiosities', British Museum, London, 1991, no.4, figs. 35-45.

    Rare English ostrich egg cup, marked for John Spilman, London 1590, who was a foreign goldsmith working in London and was knighted by James I in 1605. For this cup see Christies London 25 November lot 55, The Whitfield Cup.

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  • Bibliography

    • Read 1902 112 bibliographic details
    • Dalton 1927 112 bibliographic details
    • Tait 1991a 4 bibliographic details
  • Location

    On display: G2a/dc1

  • Condition

    Much altered in the following areas: (i) The ostrich egg forming the bowl of the cup is a modern replacement. In Read 1902, it is stated that “this cup had formerly a silver body, which had replaced the original shell”. (ii) The silver-gilt stem consists of two elements, the larger of which is more obviously not original. Cast in one piece, it comprises a circular collar with egg-and-dart ornament in relief, above which rises the ornate baluster form consisting of a confused mixture of interlacing scrolls, three large masks and three projecting, terminal birdlike monster heads. Open at both ends, this cast piece is gilded but is a very different colour from the rest of the silver-gilt mounts on the cup. The second element, with its fluted top and scroll brackets, is apparently designed en suite with the cast baluster element below and, therefore, is similarly not original. (iii) The silver-gilt calyx in the form of three concave leaves, which is thin and crudely fashioned, is probably a modern replacement. (iv) The cover may not originally have belonged to this cup since the design of the broad silver-gilt mount around the cracked shell does not 'echo', or correspond faithfully with, the decoration on the mounts of the cup itself. Not only does it have three applied lion heads in high relief, which do not appear to have been gilded and do not resemble the lion masks on the foot, but it also has three sections of engraved ornament that do not match the three very distinct patterns of engraved ornament that distinguish the three zones immediately below on the bowl (between the three roundels with engraved heads). Finally, the rim moulding of the cover has a laurel wreath design in relief (on both faces), whereas the foot-rim of the cup is plain except for a lightly pounced surface decoration (on the upper face). It seems, therefore, that the laurel wreath motif on the cover may have been borrowed from the border of the upper tier of the base, although the workmanship does not seem to be the same. (v) The finial of the cover is probably entirely modern, for when it is dismantled into its five component parts it can be seen that none is made in the sixteenth-century manner. The standing female nude figure holding, in an ungainly fashion, a disc in her right hand and a cord linking two shields in her left hand, is poorly modelled and cast; furthermore, the crisply, but ineptly, engraved heraldic devices on the two elaborately shaped shields show no sign of age and depict unidentifiable devices: namely, a hare springing from three mounts and (on the right-hand shield) three staves, one in pale, two in saltire, dividing the initials V. D. The long, modern screw attached to the base of the figure passes through the small three-leafed 'inverted calyx', through the curious double-walled bowl-shaped disc and, finally, through the cone-shaped element rising from a twelve-pointed foliated plate that caps the shell on the outside. The hole pierced in the top of the shell - now much enlarged by accidental chipping - is hidden on the inside of the cover by a thin, modern reproduction of an old medallion, to the back of which has been crudely soldered a small threaded tube, into which the finial is screwed. The medallion (DIAM. 3.5 cm) is decorated in low relief with the seated figure of Justice, wearing a crown and holding both sword and scales, depicted in an open-air setting with a landscape and buildings in the background. The obverse has a coating of modern gilding The original of this medallion is well known and is said to be ‘after Peter Flötner’ (see I. Weber, ‘Deutsche, Niederländische und Französische Renaissanceplaketten 1500-1650’, Munich, 1975, p. 85, no. 64.7, pl. 21, where two examples in lead - preserved in Berlin and Munich - are listed; also, there is a reference to its use on a silver-gilt wine-cruet of c. 1580 (St Ulrich, Halle) and two lead powder-flasks (Historisches Museum, Basle, and the Germanisches Natlonalmuseum, Nuremberg). The medallion is part of a set of the Seven Seated Virtues, all circular and approximately the same size, which were probably first produced in the mid-sixteenth century.

  • Subjects

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date

    1898

  • Acquisition notes

    This collection is known as the Waddesdon Bequest under the terms of Baron Ferdinand Rothschild’s will.

  • Department

    Britain, Europe and Prehistory

  • Registration number

    WB.112

Ostrich-egg standing cup and cover. The standing-cup itself has survived with the following original silver-gilt parts: the two-tier circular base, the three vertical strap-mounts (encasing the ostrich egg), the horizontal strap-mount and, above, the broad, everted rim of the bowl. The three vertical strap-mounts have identical cast decoration in relief, which comprises a Renaissance pilaster-type ornament (of grotesque busts and masks within a symmetrical pattern of strapwork scrolls and foliate motifs), over the centre of which has been applied a large, overlapping, oval cartouche of elaborate scrollwork incorporating fruit and foliate motifs and, in the centre, a putto-mask. The horizontal strap-mount, to which the top of each of the three vertical strap-mounts is linked by a highly decorative hinge of banded foliate design, comprises band of repetitive cast strapwork cartouches, in the centre of which is a lion mask in high relief; between each of the strapwork cartouches there is a pendant bunch of fruit. There are seven complete strapwork cartouches containing lion masks, but because there was not sufficient room left for the eighth there is a short section where two pendant bunches of fruit are separated only by a tiny, short piece of strapwork, thereby creating a very confused effect. This cast repetitive design is, again, used on the lower tier of the base, but with a difference: between each pair of strapwork cartouches containing lion masks and the adjoining pendant bunches of fruit there is a projecting putto's head. There are three projecting heads; and, unlike the situation with the horizontal strap-mount, there is no problem because pairs of cartouches and adjacent bunches of fruit fit the remaining space almost exactly. Above this slightly convex band of decoration, the plain surface of the base narrows as it rises to support the upper zone of the base, the edge of which is decorated with a laurel wreath border. Within the border is a slightly convex band of cast ornament in relief, comprising three repetitive sections (a term between scrollwork with fruit and foliate motifs) separated by a projecting putto's head in high relief. From the centre of the upper part of the base, which is left plain, rises the tubular stem, the upper section of which has an internal screw thread. Into the latter is threaded the screw that is attached to the underside of the plain, concave plate beneath the ostrich egg and to which the three vertical strap-mounts are attached by means of 'hinge fastenings'. This shaped and highly functional plate with its three 'hinge fastenings' is hidden from view (when the cup is assembled) by a thin, silver-gilt concave calyx, fashioned to resemble a foliate base overlaid by three long, pointed leaves. Finally, the broad, everted rim to the bowl of the cup is linked to the horizontal strap-mount below by a narrow zone of four crisply formed mouldings, and its exterior surface is entirely covered with engraved ornament. The three roundels, equidistantly placed to line up with the three vertical strap-mounts, each contain a bust:   (i) A bearded king (?), wearing a pointed crown, in profile facing right and in the field (on the left) '155' and (on the right) '4'.  (ii) A woman, wearing flowers in an elaborate headdress, three-quarters facing to left; the collar of her dress is open at the neck.  (iii)  A bearded man in classical armour, wearing a plumed helmet, in profile facing left.  Between each of these roundels the surface is engraved with a panel of intricate ornament; each is a different pattern, although all three are composed of a strapwork design overlaid by a symmetrical interlace of foliate

Ostrich-egg standing cup and cover. The standing-cup itself has survived with the following original silver-gilt parts: the two-tier circular base, the three vertical strap-mounts (encasing the ostrich egg), the horizontal strap-mount and, above, the broad, everted rim of the bowl. The three vertical strap-mounts have identical cast decoration in relief, which comprises a Renaissance pilaster-type ornament (of grotesque busts and masks within a symmetrical pattern of strapwork scrolls and foliate motifs), over the centre of which has been applied a large, overlapping, oval cartouche of elaborate scrollwork incorporating fruit and foliate motifs and, in the centre, a putto-mask. The horizontal strap-mount, to which the top of each of the three vertical strap-mounts is linked by a highly decorative hinge of banded foliate design, comprises band of repetitive cast strapwork cartouches, in the centre of which is a lion mask in high relief; between each of the strapwork cartouches there is a pendant bunch of fruit. There are seven complete strapwork cartouches containing lion masks, but because there was not sufficient room left for the eighth there is a short section where two pendant bunches of fruit are separated only by a tiny, short piece of strapwork, thereby creating a very confused effect. This cast repetitive design is, again, used on the lower tier of the base, but with a difference: between each pair of strapwork cartouches containing lion masks and the adjoining pendant bunches of fruit there is a projecting putto's head. There are three projecting heads; and, unlike the situation with the horizontal strap-mount, there is no problem because pairs of cartouches and adjacent bunches of fruit fit the remaining space almost exactly. Above this slightly convex band of decoration, the plain surface of the base narrows as it rises to support the upper zone of the base, the edge of which is decorated with a laurel wreath border. Within the border is a slightly convex band of cast ornament in relief, comprising three repetitive sections (a term between scrollwork with fruit and foliate motifs) separated by a projecting putto's head in high relief. From the centre of the upper part of the base, which is left plain, rises the tubular stem, the upper section of which has an internal screw thread. Into the latter is threaded the screw that is attached to the underside of the plain, concave plate beneath the ostrich egg and to which the three vertical strap-mounts are attached by means of 'hinge fastenings'. This shaped and highly functional plate with its three 'hinge fastenings' is hidden from view (when the cup is assembled) by a thin, silver-gilt concave calyx, fashioned to resemble a foliate base overlaid by three long, pointed leaves. Finally, the broad, everted rim to the bowl of the cup is linked to the horizontal strap-mount below by a narrow zone of four crisply formed mouldings, and its exterior surface is entirely covered with engraved ornament. The three roundels, equidistantly placed to line up with the three vertical strap-mounts, each contain a bust: (i) A bearded king (?), wearing a pointed crown, in profile facing right and in the field (on the left) '155' and (on the right) '4'. (ii) A woman, wearing flowers in an elaborate headdress, three-quarters facing to left; the collar of her dress is open at the neck. (iii) A bearded man in classical armour, wearing a plumed helmet, in profile facing left. Between each of these roundels the surface is engraved with a panel of intricate ornament; each is a different pattern, although all three are composed of a strapwork design overlaid by a symmetrical interlace of foliate

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