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Casting bottle

  • Place of origin:

    London (assayed)

  • Date:

    1553-1554 (hallmarked)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Raised, cast, embossed, punched and pierced silver-gilt

  • Credit Line:

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

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Gold, Silver and Mosaics, Room 70, The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Galleries, case 1, shelf 3 []

This bottle, with its characteristic flagon shape, was used to hold and sprinkle rose water or other scented essence. Such objects were highly fashionable but never particularly common. Now there are only four known surviving examples of pear-shaped casting bottles, of which this is the least altered or damaged. The decoration of the piece is indicative of an early Renaissance style, which went out of fashion around the middle of the 16th century.

This piece is an example of 16th century domestic silver. Such silver was both functional and ornamental. Objects for dining and drinking took elegant forms and were decorated in the latest styles. Beautifully crafted items intended only for display often adopted functional forms such as cups and dishes. Domestic silver was not confined to the most wealthy. Many people owned silver spoons or mounted vessels, items which often became treasured possessions.

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

A pear-shaped bottle of oval section embossed with two sprays of foliage above a row of bosses and lobed bottom, with a chain attached on each side by dragon loops. The body surmounts an extremely waisted neck and flaring foot which has been chased with foliate decoration on a punched matted ground. Between two ribs on the neck, chased trellis- and scrollwork, make a visual break between the deeply chased body and the equally chased domed screw-on cover with baluster finial.

Place of Origin

London (assayed)


1553-1554 (hallmarked)



Materials and Techniques

Raised, cast, embossed, punched and pierced silver-gilt

Marks and inscriptions

London hallmarks for 1553-54
On the foot

Sterling standard
On the foot

Indistinct maker's mark
On the foot


Height: 14.8 cm, Width: 8.5 cm, Depth: 6 cm, Weight: 180 g

Object history note

Provenance: Sale, Sotheby's, lot 46, May 3, 1984.

Descriptive line

Silver-gilt casting bottle, London, 1553-54

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. 5, pp. 44-7. ISBN.0875871445.
Art at Auction: The Year at Sotheby's 1983-1984. London; New York: Sotheby & Co., p. 270.
Clayton, Michael. The Collector’s dictionary of the silver and gold of Great Britain and North America. 2nd ed. London: Antique Collectors’ Club, 1985, no. 13, p. 78.
Schroder, Timothy. 'Early English silver rarities'. The Antique Collector. June 1986, vol. 57, no. 6, fig. 1, p. 117.
Glanville, Philippa. Silver in England. London: Unwin Hyman, 1987, pl.1, p. 299.
Schroder, Timothy, ed. The Gilbert Collection at the V&A. London (V&A Publishing) 2009, p. 29, plate 13. ISBN9781851775934.

Labels and date

(Gallery 70, case 1)
20. Bottle for rose water
London, England; mark unidentified
Gilded silver
Museum no. Loan:Gilbert.579:1, 2-2008 [16/11/2016]




Raising; Piercing; Punching; Embossing; Casting; Gilding

Subjects depicted

Dragons; Bosses; Chains; Foliage


Containers; Metalwork; Personal accessories


Metalwork Collection

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