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Cup and cover

Cup and cover

  • Place of origin:

    Zurich (made)

  • Date:

    1620-1630 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Silver-gilt, cast and pierced, ostrich egg and cold enamel

  • Credit Line:

    The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Collection on loan to the Victoria and Albert Museum, London

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This is an example of the sophisticated decoration revered by the seventeenth century patrons. The combination of exotic materials and the form itself reflect the taste of the era. Mounted ostrich egg and stems in the shape of a tree trunk can be found repeatedly on cups made in South German centres of production around 1600.

The cup would have been an eloquent means of demonstrating the owner's taste, wealth and status. Ostrich egg cups are a tradition dating back to the Middle Ages. Healing powers were ascribed to the material which makes it very likely that the cup was not only part of the owner's chamber of treasures or Schatzkammer, but might also have been used as a drinking vessel.

In the case of this cup the form assumes a rather extravagant quality by the transformation of the straps into red flames. This unique choice is an allusion to the crest of arms of a Swiss patrician family, the Graffenrieds of Bern. The family held several important offices in the 17th century.

The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Schatzkammer is one of the few collections of its kind formed in the late 20th century.

Sir Arthur Gilbert and his wife Rosalinde formed one of the world's great decorative art collections, including silver, mosaics, enamelled portrait miniatures and gold boxes. Arthur Gilbert donated his extraordinary collection to Britain in 1996.

Physical description

The cup stands on a raised, six-lobed foot, chased around the border with stylised foliage on punched matted ground. The stem is formed as a tree trunk with roots, cold enamelled in black. The ostrich egg body has a flamiform calyx applied at the bottom, cold enamelled in red and connected to the lip by three vertical straps each modelled as a female demifigure. The band beneath the plain lip is chased with fluting and openwork scrolls and decorated with enamel rosettes. The cover has openwork foliate tongues and similar applied scrolls and enamel rosettes. The finial is formed as an angel holding a helmet and crest in the left hand.

Place of Origin

Zurich (made)


1620-1630 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Silver-gilt, cast and pierced, ostrich egg and cold enamel

Marks and inscriptions

Z as Zurich town mark

maker's mark TC in monogram
marked under the foot


Height: 47 cm whole object, Width: 14 cm, Depth: 14 cm, Weight: 1185 g

Object history note

Provenance: von Graffenried family, Bern; purchased from S.J. Philips Ltd., London, 1984.

Historical context note

The crest supported by the finial figure is that of the Graffenried family of Bern, one of the important patrician families of the town. The very design of the cup is dictated by the crest of the family, a flame issuing from a tree trunk.

Descriptive line

Ostrich egg mounted in silver-gilt and enamel, Zurich, 1620-30.

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

Schroder, Timothy. The Gilbert collection of gold and silver. Los Angeles (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) 1988, cat. no. 144, pp. 534-37. ISBN.0875871445
Tebbe, Karin, ed. Nürnberger Goldschmiedekunst 1541-1868. Band II. Goldglanz und Silberstrahl. Exh. catalogue Germanisches Nationalmuseum 2007-2008, Nuremberg (Verlag des Germanischen Nationalmuseums) 2007, pp. 162-163.


Gold; Silver; Silver; Enamel; Egg-shell


Gilding; Casting; Piercing; Cold-enamelling

Subjects depicted

Angels; Flames


Drinking; Metalwork


Metalwork Collection

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