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Casting bottle

  • Place of origin:

    Egypt (made)
    England (mounted)

  • Date:

    900-1000 (made)
    1540-1550 (mounted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved rock crystal, with silver-gilt cap, body mounts, chain and foot

  • Museum number:

    M.78:1, 2-1910

  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 58, case 5 []

Object Type
Casting bottles were used in courtly and noble circles to sprinkle flower essences, such as rosewater, onto the body. They enjoyed great popularity throughout Europe between the 15th century and the mid-17th century. Few casting bottles survive today. They were made redundant by the development of musk- and resin-based perfumes, which required larger bottles.

Social Class
These bottles were frequently given as gifts, notably in the New Year exchanges at the Tudor and Stuart courts. In 1513, Henry VIII gave five away, but by 1524 he had acquired another five. They are among the most luxurious items of Tudor and Stuart metalworking, usually made of precious materials and richly decorated. Rock crystal is a colourless quartz that was valued for its transparency and beauty. It was highly prized and used for high-status gifts.

Design & Designing
Casting bottles were the accessories of the wealthiest and most fashionable members of society. As such, they often follow European fashions more closely than other items. The shape of the bottle was usually that of a flagon, in which wine was served at table.

Physical description

Casting bottle for pepper or spice, of rock crystal mounted in silver gilt, chased and repoussé. The crystal bottle is circular and has a curved base; its body is carved with four concavities terminating in scrolls; the neck is slightly spreading and is encircled with mouldings at the shoulder. The mounting consists of a circular foot with a border of acanthus leaves and a base-mount into which the bottle is set. From this two scroll-shaped straps rise to a collar encircling the shoulder of the bottle, with rings to which a chain is attached, with a hook for suspension. The mouth has a mount decorated with acanthus leaves, with a screw stopper pierced for sprinkling.

Place of Origin

Egypt (made)
England (mounted)

Date

900-1000 (made)
1540-1550 (mounted)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Carved rock crystal, with silver-gilt cap, body mounts, chain and foot

Marks and inscriptions

Re-use

Dimensions

Height: 13.4 cm, Diameter: 6 cm base, Weight: 264 g

Object history note

Rock crystal from Egypt, mounted in England
Purchased from Mr J. Hughes, 181 New King's Road, SW, on 10th March 1910.

Saladin Exhibition RF.2005/17

Descriptive line

Crystal casting bottle

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Contadini, Anna, Fatimid Art at the Victoria & Albert Museum. London: V&A Publications, 1998. p. 36, plate 2
Europa und der Orient 800-1900 Exhibition catalogue (Berlin, 1989), cat.no.4/7

Labels and date

British Galleries:
Casting bottles (perfume bottles) contained flower essences (usually rose-water). They were used by upper-class women and many are recorded as New Year's gifts at Henry VIII's court. The rock crystal may have contained a holy relic and come to England after the Crusades. It was later mounted in silver and given its new use when religious relics were prohibited after the Reformation. [27/03/2003]

Materials

Quartz crystal; Silver gilt

Techniques

Carved; Chased; Repousse

Categories

Images Online; Containers; Personal accessories; British Galleries

Collection

Metalwork Collection

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