- Museum number
Cup of silver in the form of a columbine flower. The sides of the bowl are incurved from the six lobes of the rim to the six lobes on the lower part. The ornament on the bowl is repoussé; on the six upper lobes are cartouches containing scenes from classical mythology; the bottom of the upper cartouches and the top of the lower form the bases of triangular panels into which the middle of the bowl is divided, each panel occupied by a conventional floral and foliate design. The subjects of the upper part comprise: the story of Arachne; the fall of Icarus; the judgement of Midas; the flaying of Marsyas; a helmed narrator (?) facing a company of persons, some with musical instruments, in the air a winged horse (Pegasus ?); a group of persons with musical instruments, in the background birds flying downwards. On each of the lower lobes is a figure holding an object symbolizing a virtue or a vice, with inscriptions in scrolls above: a nude boy with a lighted candle; a nude boy with mirror and peacock; a nude boy with triangle and compasses; a boy crowned and seated on a winged sphere holding a sceptre; a nude boy with wreath and lyre; a nude boy with a pointed cap holding a wreath and a trumpet. On the bottom of the bowl in the spaces between the lobes bunches of fruit between two crabs and a tortoise. The baluster stem has a sexfoil at the point of junction with the bowl; on the knop are three rams' heads with leaves and fruit between. The three-lobed foot is in two tiers: on the lobes of the upper, on mounds, surrounded by guilloche bands, are a stag-beetle, a lizard, and a snake; in the interspaces female winged figures kneeling with their backs against the stem; on the convex edge of the lower tier is a conventional foliate scroll-pattern. The outside of the whole cup is decorated except for a narrow band at the rim and the space between the two tiers of the foot. There are no stamps.
- Production date
Diameter: 11 centimetres
Height: 20.10 centimetres
- Curator's comments
- Text from Read and Tonnochy 1928, 'Catalogue of Silver Plate' (Franks Bequest):
'Columbine' cups (German ‘Ackleibecher’), so-called from their resemblance to a columbine flower, show a reversion to the form of the Gothic lobed cup, the ornament being in the style of the Renaissance. The earliest surviving examples belong to the end of the sixteenth century. A cup of this form was the most important of the three masterpieces required of a Nuremberg apprentice on his admission as a master.
The making of a masterpiece for admission to the gild appears as early as the fourteenth century in the north of Germany and, apparently, rather later in the south. During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries three masterpieces were demanded, representing three related branches of the goldsmith's art, a cup, a ring set with a stone, and a seal. The definition of the type of cup was probably first given in Nuremberg, and as early as 1531 it is laid down that no one can be admitted as a master who has not made the prescribed object “mit sein selbst hanndt on meniglichs hilf unnd zuthun Nemlich ein Agleyplumen von silber ain (geschnittenen) rinng von golt mit ainem versetzten stain unnd ain geschnitten Sigill”. The condition requiring original work did not, however, apply to the design, which might be taken from models supplied by other persons. This master-book of 1531 further states the weight and the cost of three specimen pieces and those concerned in making them; it is made clear that the three specimen pieces corresponding to the three different masterpieces were a cup, a ring, and a seal, not three variants of one of the models. An entry in the register of the Nuremberg gild for 1573 mentions three cups, which have been identified respectively with one now in the Victoria and Albert Museum and two at Nuremberg. The South Kensington cup is considered to be the masterpiece, and is said to have been made by Martin Rehlein of Nuremberg in 1572-3 (M. Rosenberg in ‘Kunst und Gewerbe’, Jahrg. 19, pp. 298 ff., where a list of these cups is given). This and other similar cups are ungilt; a gilt specimen is preserved in the Hungarian National Museum at Budapest (Pulszky, Radisics, and Molinier, ‘Chefs-d'oeuvre d'Orfèvrerie’, etc, p. 157: reproduction in the Victoria and Albert Museum). Two covered cups, one with enamel, are figured in F. Luthmer, ‘Der Schatz des Freiherrn Karl von Rothschild’, I, pls. xix and xxvi).
The naturalistic ornament exemplified by the figures in the round on the knop and base reached its full development at the end of the fifteenth century, and flourished in the workshops of the Nuremberg goldsmiths (see E. Kris in Vienna ‘Jahrbuch’, 1926, on 'Der Stil "Rustique" '). It is particularly characteristic of the Jamnitzer family of Nuremberg, especially of Wentzel Jamnitzer (1508-85), to whom the South Kensington cup and the two from Nuremberg already mentioned were formerly ascribed. A silver gilt bell in the Waddesdon Bequest (no. 95) by Hans Jamnitzer, made about 1558, affords a good example of the style. The present cup used erroneously to be ascribed to Cellini and known as the 'Cellini Cup'.
The following information supplementary to Read & Tonnochy 1928: see also J. Stockbauer, 'Der sogenanten Jamnitzer-Pokal der Goldschmids-Innung in Nürnberg', in 'Kunst und G=ewerbe, 1878, pp. 265-7.
- On display (G46/dc11)
- Exhibition history
2016-2017 7 Oct-9 Jan, Berlin, Martin-Gropius-Bau, The British View: Germany – Memories of a Nation
2014-2015 16 Oct-25 Jan, London, BM, G35, Germany: Memories of a Nation
- Acquisition date
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number