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Dish thumbnail 2
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Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Cast Courts, Room 46, The Chitra Nirmal Sethia Gallery

Dish

ca. 1585 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place of origin

The 'Temperantia' Basin is one of the highlights of the V&A's pewter collection. It is a fine example of Edelzinn, literally 'precious pewter', which was produced in France and Germany during the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. The dish was probably made to decorate the buffet of a prince or of a civic body such as a town guild. Contemporary illustrations show these buffets could be enormous, multi-tiered structures supporting rich displays of gold, silver, mounted exotic shells and colourful stones, and other items from their owners' treasuries.

By the late 16th century, most fashionable patrons favoured fantastical Manneristpieces for their displays. Mannerism was a courtly style based around the idea of difficultà: complex design, virtuoso craftsmanship and decoration infused with intellectual references. The surface of this dish is decorated with cast designs in relief with its central plaque depicting a figure of Temperance holding a wine-cup and ewer. Around the central boss a broad band of ornament contains four plaques with figures representing AER (air), AQUA (water), TERRA (earth), and IGNIS (fire). On the rim there are oval panels depicting the Seven Liberal Arts and their patron Minerva: GRAMMATIC (Grammar), DIALECTICA, RHETORICA (rhetoric), MUSICA (music), ARITHMETIQUA (Arithmetic), GEOMETRIA (Geometry) and ASTROLOGIA (Astrology). Between the plaques the dish is covered with finely cast strapwork, birds, masks, serpents, fruit, flowers and winged horses. As Edelzinn was designed for display it tends to survive in excellent condition.

The dish is signed 'FB' on the central boss for Francois Briot, the most celebrated member of a French family of medallists and die-cutters. Briot was a model carver, medallist and pattern-maker rather than a pewterer, creating copper moulds in which pewter was cast. The Temperantia dish, is his only known signed work. It would have been extremely costly to produce. The intricate modelling was highly skilled work. Briot's most likely patron was Friedrich I, Duke of Württemberg (1557-1608), Count of Montbéliard (1581-93). Briot moved to Montbeliard in 1579 and by 1585 was appointed seal-engraver to the count and is known to have made medals for Friedrich.

Briot's 'Temperantia' and similar 'Mars' basins have had a widespread influence. The V&A owns an almost identical dish by the early 17th-century Nuremberg modeller, Caspar Enderlein (Mus. No. 5477-1859). The Enderlein versions were not cast from an original but were made from moulds cut as line-for-line copies of the Briot dish. The model was further disseminated by polychrome pottery versions in Palissyware which were in turn imitated during the 19th century (see Museum no. 1080-1871). Every year the winner of the women's singles at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships holds a silver copy made by Elkington of Birmingham in 1864 of an Enderlein version of Briot's Temperantia basin that was cast from a plaster mould taken from the version in The Louvre. The V&A has an electrotype made from the same pattern in 1852 (Museum no. REPRO.1852B-6).


Object details

Categories
Object type
Materials and techniques
Pewter with cast reliefs
Brief description
'Temperantia' dish, France (Montbeliard), around 1585, pewter, cast in relief from a mould by François Briot (working 1550-1616).
Physical description
'Temperantia' dish, pewter, circular with a deeply sunk well and raised centre, its central boss with a plaque depicting a figure of Temperance holding a wine-cup and ewer. The central boss is signed in the mould: FB for Francis Briot. Around the central boss a broad band of ornament contains four plaques with figures representing AER (air), AQUA (water), TERRA (earth), and IGNIS (fire). The boss and the outer rim are surrounded by a cast band of ovals on a ground of fine diaper. Within this outer rim is a broad flat band divided into eight oval cartouches containing relief compositions of the Seven Liberal Arts and their patron Minerva: GRAMMATIC (Grammar), DIALECTICA, RHETORICA (rhetoric), MUSICA (music), ARITHMETIQUA (Arithmetic), GEOMETRIA (Geometry) and ASTROLOGIA (Astrology). Between the plaques the dish is covered with finely cast strapwork, birds, masks, serpents, fruit, flowers and winged horses.

The reverse of the dish is plain but shows clear concentric rings where the dish was turned on a lathe after casting to remove excess pewter. Inside the hollow created by the central boss is a medallion depicting the modeller, Franci Briot with the inscription: SCVLPEBAT FRANSISCVS BRIOT.
Dimensions
  • Diameter: 45.0cm
  • Of rim width: 6.5cm
  • Depth: 4.5cm
Style
Marks and inscriptions
  • Cast into the dish: AER, AQUA, TERRA and IGNIS (inner rim); GRAMMATIC, DIALECTICA, RHETORICA, MUSICA, ARITHMETIQUA, GEOMETRIA and ASTROLOGIA (outer rim).
  • Medallion on reverse: SCVLPEBAT FRANSISCVS BRIOT.
Gallery label
  • Cast of The Temperance Basin Mould engraved by François Briot, about 1585 Pewterer unknown This is one of the original 'Temperance Basins' signed by Briot. It is a highlight of the V&A pewter collection. The basin is an example of Edelzinn ('precious tin'), a highly ornamented type of pewter fashionable from the 1560s. Edelzinn was cast in intricately engraved iron and copper moulds, which were extremely expensive. Pewter makers depended on the demand for multiple copies to make investing in them worthwhile. Cast pewter Signed 'FB' in the mould Montbeliard, France Museum no. 2063-1855(30.11.18)
  • BADA 2004 Exhibition label: 'TEMPERANTIA' DISH Pewter, France, around 1585, signed 'FB' for Francois Briot (around 1550-around 1616) This dish, signed by the celebrated pattern-maker Francois Briot, is one of the highlights of the V&A's metalwork collections. Briot was court engraver to John Frederick of Wurtemberg from 1585 and has been described as "the Raphael or Cellini of pewterers". The surface of the dish is decorated with cast designs in relief. The central plaque depicts a figure of Temperance holding a wine cup and ewer. Four plaques show figures representing Air, Water, Earth and Fire. The dish was probably designed to decorate the buffet of a prince or of a civic institution. The Museum bought the dish in 1855 for £19 from the collection of Ralph Bernal (d. 1854), a lawyer and MP. A version of this dish was subsequently copied (electrotyped) by Elkingtons of Birmingham to create the women's singles trophy at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships. 2063-1855(March 2004)
  • Pewter Gallery, Gallery 81 'TEMPERANTIA' DISH, France (Montbeliard), around 1580, Cast in relief from a model by François Briot of Lorraine (working 1550-1616). In the centre: the figure of Temperance surrounded by the four elements. Round the rim: Minerva and the Seven Arts, 2063-1855(1999 - 2002)
Object history
This dish dates from around 1585 and was cast using a mould made by Francois Briot, the celebrated medallist and die-cutter. The dish was probably designed to decorate the buffet of a prince or of a civic body such as a town guild. Contemporary illustrations show that buffets could be enormous, multi-tiered structures supporting rich displays of gold, silver, mounted exotic shells and colourful stones, and other items from their treasuries.

By the late 16th century, most fashionable patrons favoured fantastical Mannerist pieces for their displays. Mannerism was a courtly style based around the idea of difficultà: complex design, virtuoso craftsmanship and decoration infused with intellectual references. The surface of this dish is decorated with cast designs in relief with its central plaque depicting a figure of Temperance holding a wine-cup and ewer. Around the central boss a broad band of ornament contains four plaques with figures representing AER (air), AQUA (water), TERRA (earth), and IGNIS (fire). On the rim there are oval panels depicting the Seven Liberal Arts and their patron Minerva: GRAMMATIC (Grammar), DIALECTICA, RHETORICA (rhetoric), MUSICA (music), ARITHMETIQUA (Arithmetic), GEOMETRIA (Geometry) and ASTROLOGIA (Astrology). Between the plaques the dish is covered with finely cast strapwork, birds, masks, serpents, fruit, flowers and winged horses. The style was best suited to objects intended for display rather than for use.

The dish is signed 'FB' on the central boss for Francois Briot, the most celebrated member of a French family of medallists and die-cutters. Briot was a model carver, medallist and pattern-maker rather than a pewterer, creating copper moulds in which pewter was cast. The Temperantia dish, is his only known signed work. It would have been extremely costly to produce. The intricate modelling was highly skilled work. Briot's most likely patron was Friedrich I, Duke of Württemberg (1557-1608), Count of Montbéliard (1581-93). Briot moved to Montbeliard in 1579 and by 1585 was appointed seal-engraver to the count and is known to have made medals for Friedrich.

This basin was one of the Museum's early purchases, bought in 1855 from the sale collection of Ralph Bernal. The Bernal Collection was an enormous collection of metalwork, glass, ceramics and miniatures belonging to Ralph Bernal, a lawyer, MP and former absentee slave owner whose plantations appear to have funded much of his collecting. The sale by Christie, Manson and Woods took 32 days during which 4294 lots fetched nearly £71,000. The Museum bought 730 lots including this dish for which it paid £19. Its provenance until the 19th century is not known.
Historical context
The dish was probably designed to decorate the buffet of a prince or of a civic body such as a town guild. Contemporary illustrations show that buffets could be enormous, multi-tiered structures supporting rich displays of gold, silver, mounted exotic shells and colourful stones, and other items from princely treasuries. By the late 16th century, most fashionable patrons favoured fantastical Mannerist pieces for their displays. Mannerism was a courtly style based around the idea of difficultà: complex design, virtuoso craftsmanship and decoration infused with intellectual references.

Elaborate French and German buffet dishes of the 1580s, including this example, show pewter mould-making and casting at its most skilled. Pewter is an alloy or mixture of metals consisting primarily of tin. Adding metals such as copper and antimony makes pewter harder and more durable. The best alloys contain over 90% tin. Before 1800 lead was allowed in 'lay metal', a lower-quality alloy used for measures and boxes. Soft lead made casting easier, but was poisonous, so it was forbidden in 'flatware' such as plates, dishes and porringers. Tests do reveal small amounts of up to 2%. Modern pewter contains no lead. Pewter's low melting point makes it suitable for casting, though early casting moulds were expensive.

This dish be seen as one of those instructional objects bought at the very beginnings of the museum's existence as art school under the supervision of the Government's Department of Science and Art. Under the museum's first Director, Henry Cole and first Curator, John Charles Robinson, both historic and contemporary works of art were collected as models for artists, designers and students to learn to draw and copy from as inspiration for their own products. The aim, which Cole described as 'economic' (commercial) was to get good design into Britain's factories to improve the country's manufacturing products. Good models might also inspire the visiting public to become more discerning in the choices they made when decirating their homes. In this sense the V&A (then known as the South Knesington Museum) saw itself as ther arbiter of national taste. Some of the earliest purchases by the Museum included outstanding examples of European pewter.

Briot's 'Temperantia' and similar 'Mars' basins have had a widespread influence. The V&A owns an almost identical dish by the early 17th-century Nuremberg modeller, Caspar Enderlein (Mus. No. 5477-1859). The Enderlein versions were not cast from an original but were made from moulds cut as line-for-line copies of the Briot dish. The model was further disseminated by polychrome pottery versions in Palissyware which were in turn imitated during the 19th century (see Museum no. 1080-1871). Every year the winner of the women's singles at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships holds a silver copy made by Elkington of Birmingham in 1864 of an Enderlein version of Briot's Temperantia basin that was cast from a plaster mould taken from the version in The Louvre. The V&A has an electrotype made from the same pattern in 1852 (Museum no. REPRO.1852B-6).
Production
François Briot designed the model and made the mould from which this dish was cast. The signature FB on the central boss of the dish was signed in the mould before casting.

The pewterer who cast the dish is not known. The pewterer did not strike a 'touch mark' on the finished dish.
Association
Summary
The 'Temperantia' Basin is one of the highlights of the V&A's pewter collection. It is a fine example of Edelzinn, literally 'precious pewter', which was produced in France and Germany during the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. The dish was probably made to decorate the buffet of a prince or of a civic body such as a town guild. Contemporary illustrations show these buffets could be enormous, multi-tiered structures supporting rich displays of gold, silver, mounted exotic shells and colourful stones, and other items from their owners' treasuries.

By the late 16th century, most fashionable patrons favoured fantastical Manneristpieces for their displays. Mannerism was a courtly style based around the idea of difficultà: complex design, virtuoso craftsmanship and decoration infused with intellectual references. The surface of this dish is decorated with cast designs in relief with its central plaque depicting a figure of Temperance holding a wine-cup and ewer. Around the central boss a broad band of ornament contains four plaques with figures representing AER (air), AQUA (water), TERRA (earth), and IGNIS (fire). On the rim there are oval panels depicting the Seven Liberal Arts and their patron Minerva: GRAMMATIC (Grammar), DIALECTICA, RHETORICA (rhetoric), MUSICA (music), ARITHMETIQUA (Arithmetic), GEOMETRIA (Geometry) and ASTROLOGIA (Astrology). Between the plaques the dish is covered with finely cast strapwork, birds, masks, serpents, fruit, flowers and winged horses. As Edelzinn was designed for display it tends to survive in excellent condition.

The dish is signed 'FB' on the central boss for Francois Briot, the most celebrated member of a French family of medallists and die-cutters. Briot was a model carver, medallist and pattern-maker rather than a pewterer, creating copper moulds in which pewter was cast. The Temperantia dish, is his only known signed work. It would have been extremely costly to produce. The intricate modelling was highly skilled work. Briot's most likely patron was Friedrich I, Duke of Württemberg (1557-1608), Count of Montbéliard (1581-93). Briot moved to Montbeliard in 1579 and by 1585 was appointed seal-engraver to the count and is known to have made medals for Friedrich.

Briot's 'Temperantia' and similar 'Mars' basins have had a widespread influence. The V&A owns an almost identical dish by the early 17th-century Nuremberg modeller, Caspar Enderlein (Mus. No. 5477-1859). The Enderlein versions were not cast from an original but were made from moulds cut as line-for-line copies of the Briot dish. The model was further disseminated by polychrome pottery versions in Palissyware which were in turn imitated during the 19th century (see Museum no. 1080-1871). Every year the winner of the women's singles at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships holds a silver copy made by Elkington of Birmingham in 1864 of an Enderlein version of Briot's Temperantia basin that was cast from a plaster mould taken from the version in The Louvre. The V&A has an electrotype made from the same pattern in 1852 (Museum no. REPRO.1852B-6).
Associated objects
Bibliographic references
  • North, Anthony, Pewter at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, V&A Publications 1999 (Reprinted 2000), pp. 17-20 and cat. 25, p. 61-62 and ill. ISBN 185177 2235
  • North, Anthony, The Pewter Gallery and Victoria and Albert Museum, in The Journal of the Pewter Society, Vol. 12, No.1, spring 1999, p36
  • Haedeke, Hanns-Ulrich, Metalwork, Weidenfeld and Nicholson, London, 1970, p. 129
  • Demiani, H., Francois Briot, Casper Enderlein und das Edelzinn, Leipzig, 1897, p. 12, pl. 1
  • Hayward, J.F., Virtuoso Goldsmiths and the Triumph of Mannerism 1540-1620, London 1976, p. 328
  • Schroder, Timothy. British and Continental gold and Silver in the Ashmolean Museum. 3 vols. Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 2009. ISBN: 978-1-85444-220-8
  • Alistair Grant and Angus Patterson, The Museum and The Factory: The V&A, Elkington and the Electrical Revolution, V&A/Lund Humphries, 2018, Chapter 4, pp. 76-87, ill. p. 79
Collection
Accession number
2063-1855

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Record createdJanuary 20, 2003
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