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  • Bottle
    Heemskerk, Willem Jacobsz. Van, born 1613 - died 1693
  • Enlarge image


  • Place of origin:

    Netherlands (made)
    Leiden (engraved)

  • Date:

    1674 (dated)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Heemskerk, Willem Jacobsz. Van, born 1613 - died 1693 (engraver (inciser))

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Diamond-engraved glass

  • Credit Line:

    Wilfred Buckley Collection

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Europe 1600-1815, Room 5, The Friends of the V&A Gallery, case CA1

This type of bottle is a decanter for wine. The engraved biblical quotation refers to the importance of wine at table.
The calligraphic inscription is the work of Willem Jacobsz. Van Heemskerk (1613-92), a successful cloth merchant from Leyden, who spent much of his spare time writing poetry and engraving glass. He specialised in this type of elegant calligraphy, filling the whole surface of the glass with letters and scrolls, each built-up from many parallel scratches. Van Heemskerk lived to be 79 and during his long life he engraved hundreds of glasses, mostly goblets and bottles like this one.

Physical description

Decanter bottle of clear, blueish-green glass. Bulbous body with long neck. A glass thread has been wound around the neck somewhat below the rim. Diamond-point engraved on the body is a calligraphic description, signed and dated 1674.

Place of Origin

Netherlands (made)
Leiden (engraved)


1674 (dated)


Heemskerk, Willem Jacobsz. Van, born 1613 - died 1693 (engraver (inciser))

Materials and Techniques

Diamond-engraved glass

Marks and inscriptions

'Wat 's 't Leven by 'n dis, alwaer geen wyn en is'/ 'Syrach cap: 31 Vers. 31'/ 'Willem van Heemskerk in Leyden. 1674. AEs 61'
'How can one enjoy a meal without wine?'/ 'Willem van Heemskerk in Leyden. 1674. Aged 61'
The calligraphic inscription is a couplet in praise of wine paraphrased from the book of Ecclesiasticus, also known as the Wisdom of Sirach (one of the books of the Apocrypha). Willem van Heemskerk has added his name and the town he lives in (Leyden), the year (1674) and his age (61).


Height: 255 mm, Width: 172 mm

Object history note

Sold at auction Muller, Amsterdam, 28/11/1913 (lot 1584)

Historical context note

This type of bottle is a decanter for wine for use at the table. It would have been refilled from larger vessels or straight from the barrel. It would have had a stopper made of cork with a silver cap which was probably linked to the bottle with a chain attached to a silver collar just below the glass thread on the neck.

Descriptive line

Decanter bottle of blueish-green glass, Northern Netherlands (Leiden), engraved by Willem van Heemskerk, 1674.

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

Smit (1989; cat W6)




Glassblowing; Diamond-point engraving


Glass; Drinking


Ceramics Collection

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