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Hand bell - Dancing Putti

Dancing Putti

  • Object:

    Hand bell

  • Place of origin:

    Italy (probably Venice, made)

  • Date:

    1500-1550 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:


  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

The overall form of this hand bell, the style of the shield and the general decoration are north Italian of the early to mid-sixteenth century, although a later date cannot be ruled out. The relationship to bells with Venetian connections suggests that city as the probable centre of production.
Bells played an important role in everyday life during the 16th century, regulating the working day, calling worshippers to church and announcing special occasions such as weddings and funerals.

Small bells were either rung by hand or suspended from beams and struck with a hammer. Hand bells were both religious and secular in function. They were used in religious rituals and were commonly decorated with figures of saints. Small bells were also used as doorbells, and to call servants and institutions into action. The sounding of a bell had a number of meanings from warning to protection from danger, calling order, regulating routine and announcing civic and religious occasions.

Physical description

Hand bell with turned handle. Decorated around the crown with imbricated leaves. Below, a band of foliate decoration, from which are suspended garlands of laurel with a loop of ribbon at the centre. Around the waist is a blank shield flanked by cornucopiae and (to the right) a naked dancing female figure, three dancing putti and a naked male figure, truncated at the knees, blowing a horn. All resting on a fine, plain moulding wire. Around the sound bow, a row of downward facing acanthus.

Place of Origin

Italy (probably Venice, made)


1500-1550 (made)



Materials and Techniques



Height: 12 cm, Height: 7.9 cm without handle, Diameter: 9 cm, Weight: 427.6 g

Object history note

From the Salting bequest. Formerly in the collection of Eugène Piot, Paris, until 1890 (Hotel Drouot (Piot) 1890, lot 29).

Descriptive line

Hand bell, bell-metal, dancing putti, Italy (probably Venice), ca. 1500-1550

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

Motture, Peta. Bells & Mortars. Catalogue of the Italian Bronzes in the Victoria and Albert Museum. London, 2001, pp. 140-1, cat. no. 38



Subjects depicted

Nude male figure; Nude female figure; Horn; Cornucopia; Putti; Foliate; Leaves


Bronze; Sculpture


Sculpture Collection

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