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Hand bell

Hand bell

  • Place of origin:

    Italy (probably Venice, made)

  • Date:

    1500-1550 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:


  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This hand bell with turned handle in bell-metal is made in North Italy, probably Venice, in ca. 1500-1550. by an unknown master.
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. Handbells 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 and sound bow with downward-facing overlapping acanthus of two different forms. Around the neck, a band of vine leaf between rows of beads. On the waist, swags of fruit and foliage supporting birds (pelicans?), which peck at the fruit, together with similar pendants with fluttering ribbons, suspended from flowers. Below the swags are alternating grotesque and female masks.

Place of Origin

Italy (probably Venice, made)


1500-1550 (made)



Materials and Techniques



Height: 13.6 cm, Height: 7.7 cm without handle, Diameter: 9.8 cm, Weight: 524 g

Object history note

From the Salting bequest. Before that Stefano Bardini (Florence).

Descriptive line

Hand bell, bell metal, with birds and masks, North 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. 138-9, cat.no 37



Subjects depicted

Foliage; Acanthus; Masks; Birds; Fruit


Household objects; Bronze; Sculpture


Sculpture Collection

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