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Chalice

  • Place of origin:

    Burgos (City) (made)
    Spain (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1520-1530 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Silver-gilt, embossed and enamelled

  • Credit Line:

    Dr W.L. Hildburgh Bequest

  • Museum number:

    M.176-1956

  • Gallery location:

    Sacred Silver & Stained Glass, Room 84, The Whiteley Galleries, case 6B

The chalice is one of the most important vessels of the Catholic church. It contains the wine consecrated by the priest during the service of Mass. In Catholic belief the wine miraculously transforms into the blood of Christ during this service, and so chalices were usually made from precious metals, to reflect the precious status of their contents.

In the 16th century, Spanish goldsmiths demonstrated great inventiveness in the design of church silver. They often combined religious symbols and images with fashionable secular ornament, such as one might find on domestic vessels like ewers or dishes. This chalice from Burgos is decorated with embossed (hammered) leaves and the foot is entirely covered with a delicately pricked or dotted scrollwork pattern. One of the coats of arms enamelled on the foot shows the Cross, with bones and Christ's crown of thorns. The other shows the arms of the monastic Carmelite Order, who presumably commissioned and used this chalice.

Physical description

Chalice, consisting of a bell-shaped bowl, hexagonal stem with central protruding knop and six-lobed foot shaped like an heraldic rose. The lower part of the bowl and the knop are embossed with foliage. The knop is set with six round bosses, previously enamelled. The foot is decorated with pointillé (dotted) scrollwork and inset with two enamelled shields.

Place of Origin

Burgos (City) (made)
Spain (made)

Date

ca. 1520-1530 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Silver-gilt, embossed and enamelled

Marks and inscriptions

a king's head issuing from a castle, with BURGOS below
Town mark for Burgos, on base

two indistinct maker's marks on base: PO over RS and [?] over OO, unidentified

Dimensions

Height: 23.8 cm, Diameter: 17.5 cm foot

Historical context note

The Spanish Church
The Catholic church dominated public and private life in Spain. Money and labour were lavished on religious art and images played a central role in daily worship. To ensure that goldsmiths focused on work for the crown and the church, the authorities brought in a series of sumptuary laws that limited the secular display of gems and precious metals.

By 1550 the silver mines in Peru and Mexico were generating enormous wealth for Spain and feeding the traditional taste for massive silver forms. They included the custodia, a towering architectural canopy that was unique to Spain. It was paraded through parishes during the Corpus Christi festival to display the Sacred Host (consecrated bread). The custodia embodied many characteristics of Spanish church plate. It was sculptural, highly visible and richly imaginative in design.

With the Counter Reformation, Spain became a triumphant defender of a revitalised Catholic faith. Silver altar vessels and entire altars, processional crosses, custodias and sanctuary lamps frequently appeared in goldsmiths' contracts.

Descriptive line

Silver-gilt, Spain, Burgos, ca.1520-30

Labels and date

TWO CHALICES

Designs for Spanish church silver were extremely inventive. The knop (the bulbous section on the stem) of the chalice on the left resembles ribbed beads from a rosary (one is displayed under 'private devotion'). The other features delicate scrollwork pricked out in a technique called 'pointillé', meaning 'dotted line', and bears the arms of the Carmelite religious order.

Right: Burgos, about 1520-30, maker's mark PO over RS
Silver-gilt and enamel
Left: Lerida, about 1525-50, no maker's mark
Silver, parcel-gilt
W.L. Hildburgh Bequest
Museum nos. M.176-1956 and M.201-1956 [22/11/2005]

Materials

Silver-gilt; Enamel

Techniques

Embossing; Enamelling

Categories

Christianity; Metalwork; Religion

Collection

Metalwork Collection

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