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Writing box

Writing box

  • Place of origin:

    Germany

  • Date:

    circa 1550

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Gilt brass with engraving.

  • Credit Line:

    Menjes Gift

  • Museum number:

    M.2823-1931

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This writing box has space for quills, ink and a blotting agent made of sandarac resin. The intricate decoration on the outside, based on popular prints of the period, suggests it was a prized possession. Perhaps the intention is to contrast the civilised ability to write with the animal behaviour of the wildman crawling on all fours.

Physical description

Gilt brass writing box engraved with two scenes symbolising human chaos and corruptibility: on the lid, a wodewose or wild man with the inscription in German: When evil lust leads us astray man becomes an animal; on the reverse with the traditional image of human chaos, a fool breaking up household implements, with the inscription in Dutch St. Nobody is my name.

Place of Origin

Germany

Date

circa 1550

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Gilt brass with engraving.

Marks and inscriptions

Translated: When evil lust leads us astray man becomes an animal
On top

Translated: St. Nobody is my name
On reverse

Dimensions

Length: 12.2 cm, Width: 5.2 cm, Depth: 2.2 cm

Object history note

Given by Mrs Menjes

Descriptive line

Gilt brass writing box engraved with scenes of chaos; Germany, ca. 1550

Labels and date

UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL

Before modern transport people largely travelled on foot or on horseback. Useful everyday items needed to be carried comfortably on the body. Some were miniature versions of larger objects, others folded ingeniously to become portable. Often they were intricate and delicate.

These eleven items were personal possessions. Many were made before pockets were commonplace. Some were used in the workplace, some at home and some on the road.

Many have cases as stylish as the objects they protect. These cases came in a range of materials, from expensive ivory and sharkskin to cheaper leather and wood. Their decoration shows the same designs that adorn silver, ceramics and textiles.

All these objects give us interesting insights into work, leisure and social etiquette

5 WRITING BOX
Gilded and engraved brass
Germany, about 1550
Inscribed in German, 'When evil lust leads us astray man becomes an animal' (top) and 'St Nobody is my name' (bottom)

This writing box has space for quills, ink and a blotting agent made of sandarac resin. The intricate decoration on the outside, based on popular prints of the period, suggests it was a prized possession. Perhaps the intention is to contrast the civilised ability to write with the animal behaviour of the wildman crawling on all fours.

Museum no. M.2823-1931 []

Materials

Brass (alloy)

Subjects depicted

Chaos; Lust

Categories

Metalwork; Personal accessories; Personal accessories

Collection

Metalwork Collection

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