Cup

1690-1700 (made)
Cup thumbnail 1
Cup thumbnail 2
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Metalware, Room 116, The Belinda Gentle Gallery
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This is a late 17th-century tourist souvenir. It comes from the Spania Dolina (formerly Herrengrund) copper mines in modern day Slovakia, a place where the water was said to perform miracles almost akin to alchemy. High in copper sulphate, the water was diverted into hollows where iron scraps had been placed. The copper sulphate reacted with the iron depositing a coating of copper on the scraps giving them the appearance of copper rather than iron. This gave rise to the legend that the water had mysterious, magical properties. The inscription on the outside of the rim translates as, 'I come from iron but the power of the water has turned me into copper in a mine in Herrengrund.'

In the centre of the cup is the small figure of a miner at work, hammering away at crystals of iron pyrites. The inside of the bowl is plain and functional giving rise to the possibility that this is a working souvenir. Its owner may have been encouraged to take the bowl and scoop up the local water and watch the copper deposits appear on the iron pyrites.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Copper gilt, copper sulphate, silver, iron pyrites
Brief Description
Copper-gilt cup decorated with a fish-skin pattern and with a plain gilded bowl, in the centre of which is a gilded pole on which sits the small silver figure of a miner hammering at a cluster of iron pyrites, Spania Dolina (formerly Herrengrund), Slovakia, around 1690-1700
Physical Description
Decorated on the outside with a fish-skin pattern, and an inscription around the rim. In the centre of the cup is a pillar on which is a miner at work, surrounded by crystals of iron pyrites.
Dimensions
  • Height: 70mm
  • Diameter: 76mm
Marks and Inscriptions
Ich stame her von Eissen, doch eines wassers macht, hat mich zu kupffer beissen in Herrengrunden schact (Inscription around the rim)
Object history
This is a late 17th-century tourist souvenir. It comes from the Spania Dolina (formerly Herrengrund) copper mines in modern day Slovakia, a place where the water was said to perform miracles almost akin to alchemy. High in copper sulphate, the water was diverted into hollows where iron scraps had been placed. The copper sulphate reacted with the iron depositing a coating of copper on the scraps giving them the appearance of copper rather than iron. This gave rise to the legend that the water had mysterious, magical properties. The inscription on the outside of the rim translates as: 'I come from iron but the power of the water has turned me into copper in a mine in Herrengrund.'



In the centre of the cup is the small figure of a miner at work, hammering away at crystals of iron pyrites. The inside of the bowl is plain and functional giving rise to the possibility that this is a working souvenir. Its owner may have been encouraged to take the bowl and scoop up the local water and watch the copper deposits appear on the iron pyrites.



It is likely that cups such as this were made by goldsmiths in a town a few miles from Spania Dolina called Banská Bystrica (formerly Neusohl).
Historical context
The inscription alludes to the method of obtaining copper, by allowing deposits of it to form on pieces of iron, placed in a flow of a solution of copper sulphate from the mines of Herrengrund.
Subjects depicted
Association
Summary
This is a late 17th-century tourist souvenir. It comes from the Spania Dolina (formerly Herrengrund) copper mines in modern day Slovakia, a place where the water was said to perform miracles almost akin to alchemy. High in copper sulphate, the water was diverted into hollows where iron scraps had been placed. The copper sulphate reacted with the iron depositing a coating of copper on the scraps giving them the appearance of copper rather than iron. This gave rise to the legend that the water had mysterious, magical properties. The inscription on the outside of the rim translates as, 'I come from iron but the power of the water has turned me into copper in a mine in Herrengrund.'



In the centre of the cup is the small figure of a miner at work, hammering away at crystals of iron pyrites. The inside of the bowl is plain and functional giving rise to the possibility that this is a working souvenir. Its owner may have been encouraged to take the bowl and scoop up the local water and watch the copper deposits appear on the iron pyrites.

Bibliographic Reference
Turner, Eric An Introduction to Brass, London, HMSO, 1982 p.17 ill. ISBN 0112903762
Collection
Accession Number
796-1891

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record createdAugust 29, 2002
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