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Box and lid - Four Elements and Adam and Eve
  • Four Elements and Adam and Eve
    Griessmann, Balthasar
  • Enlarge image

Four Elements and Adam and Eve

  • Object:

    Box and lid

  • Place of origin:

    Austria (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1650-1700 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Griessmann, Balthasar (made)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved ivory

  • Museum number:

    4715:1 to 3-1859

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This turned circular ivory box and lid is carved with reliefs of the Four Elements, represented by four seated women: one wearing a fur hat seated at a brazier (Fire), another blowing a horn (Air), a third, bare-breasted, with a trident and a fish (Water), and finally Europa and the bull (Earth). Four trees separate the four figures. The turned central medallion from the lid is adorned with a poorly carved image of Adam and Eve standing under the Tree of Knowledge. This is almost certainly later.

The carvings of the Four Elements are undoubtedly in the style of the Austrian ivory sculptor Balthasar Griessmann (ca. 1620-1706), and the box corresponds with other works known by him. It is difficult to date this piece precisely, as so few of the artist's works are dated, but it was probably made in the second half of the 17th century.
For many years Griessmann was known only as the Monogrammist B.G. In recent years his identity has been established by Franz Wagner, who established from documentary sources that Griessmann worked in Vienna and Salzburg, concentrating on ivory vessels and dishes, although he also worked in stone and horn. Many of his ivory relief depend from South Netherlandish engraved sources, and have a distinctive figural style, crowed with small figures, often with windswept hair, and charming genre details. He may have trained in the Netherlands.

Physical description

This circular box with screw lid is of carved ivory. On the lid is a medallion with the scenes of Adam and Eve standing under the Tree of Knowledge. Around the box are carved allegorical subjects in relief representing the Four Elements: Fire, Earth, Air and Water, represented by four seated women. One wearing a fur hat seated at a brazier (Fire), another blowing a horn (Air), a third, bare-breasted, with a trident and a fish (Water), and finally Europa and the Bull (Earth). Four trees separate the four figures.

Place of Origin

Austria (made)


ca. 1650-1700 (made)


Griessmann, Balthasar (made)

Materials and Techniques

Carved ivory


Height: 4.5 cm, Diameter: 6.5 cm

Object history note

Bought by Henry Cole from the Museum of the Jesuit Collegio Romano in Rome in 1859.

Descriptive line

Box with lid, circular, carved ivory, Four Elements and Adam and Eve, by Balthasar Griessmann, Austrian, ca. 1650-1700

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

Inventory of Art Objects Acquired in the Year 1859. In: Inventory of the Objects in the Art Division of the Museum at South Kensington, Arranged According to the Dates of their Acquisition. Vol I. London: Printed by George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode for H.M.S.O., 1868, p. 31
Trusted, Marjorie, Baroque & Later Ivories, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 2013, cat. no. 13
Trusted, Marjorie, ‘From Salzburg to London via Rome. An ivory by Balthasar Griessmann in the Victoria and Albert Museum’, In: Marth, Regine (ed.) Barocke Kunststückh, first edition, Munich, 2011, pp. 60-65
Theuerkauff, Christian, ed. Elfenbein, Sammlung Reiner Winkler, Vol I, 1984, no. 9, p. 105





Subjects depicted

Water; Subject; Fish; Earth; Fire; Brazier; Trees; Air; Horn; Tree of Knowledge; Bull; Figure; Trident


Containers; Accessories; Sculpture; Christianity


Sculpture Collection

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