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Spice dish

Spice dish

  • Place of origin:

    London (made)

  • Date:

    1573-1574 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Flint, Roger (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Silver gilt, engraved

  • Credit Line:

    Purchased with the assistance of the Murray Bequest and The Art Fund

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 58, case 1

This is one of a set of six bowls that were intended for the dessert course of a meal at a banquet. Used primarily on occasions of great display, dessert dishes were usually elaborately decorated and often gilded.

The dessert course was a separate and extremely expensive component of a meal, usually comprising fruit and a variety of sugar-based and spiced sweetmeats, such as honey wafers and refined sugar from Cyprus or Madeira. The distinct practice of the banquet took place after or during the intervals of a masque or musical entertainment. Temporary banqueting houses, as luxurious as the foods on offer, were often set up, or rooms were set aside for that purpose.

The centre of each bowl of this set is engraved with scenes from the Old Testament story of Abraham and Isaac, while the well is engraved with marine creatures, and the rim with birds and beasts in roundels and amid scrolling foliage. These three zones of engraving are entirely unconnected, and are characteristic of ornamental designs by such Northern European masters as Virgil Solis (1514-62) and Adriaen Collaert (about 1560-1618). The central scene on this bowl depicts The Sacrifice of Isaac, based on a work of 1559 by the Dutch artist Maarten van Heemskerck which circulated as an engraving by Dirck Volkertz Coornhert (1519/22-90).

Physical description

Spice dish, (one of a set of six, engraved with scenes from the stories of Abraham and Issac), silver-gilt, engraved with with the scene of the sacrifice of Issac , surrounded by fanatstic marine monsters. The rim engraved with panels filled with birds and beasts amdist foliage and roundels engraved with birds and a coat of arms.

Place of Origin

London (made)


1573-1574 (made)


Flint, Roger (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Silver gilt, engraved

Marks and inscriptions

Struck on the rim of the dish:
Maker's mark 'RF' in a shaped shield, probably roger Flint (or Flynt); Sterling mark, a lion passant; London town mark a crowned leopard's head; date-letter 'q' in a shield-shaped punch for 1573-1574.
Coat of arms pounced on rim may be for William Montagu of Oakley, Bedfordshire (died 1691)

A shield charged with three lozenges conjoined in fess within a border; above the lozenges an anulet.
The arms are pounced on the rim and replace an earlier coat positioned there. They are probably those of William Montagu of Oakley, Bedfordshire (died 1691).


Diameter: 25.2 cm, Height: 2.6 cm, Weight: 504 g

Object history note

Three identical coats of arms were originally engraved on the rim of this bowl. Two have been mostly erased and hidden by scrolling foliage ornament, the third is covered by a later coat of arms. Close examination of these traces reveals the original arms to be those of William Cecil, first Lord Burghley (1520-98), Lord Treasurer to Elizabeth I (Schroder: 2004, pp. 3-4). The later arms are those of the Montagu family, and may refer to William Montagu of Oakley, Bedfordshire, fifth son of Lord Chief Justice Sir Edward Montagu (d. 1556). This is one of six similar engraved plates, all with Montagu arms, which appear to have remained in the possession of the family from the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries, when they were sent to auction at Christie's, London, by Captain Frederick Montagu who had inherited the plates from his uncle, Andrew Montagu of Ingmanthorpe Hall, Yorkshire, and Papplewich Hall, Nottinghamshire. The Museum purchased all six plates at the sale on July 3rd, 1946.

The central scene engraved on this dish that shows Abraham, sword raised, about to sacrifice Isaac to the Lord (Genesis 22, 9-10) and is based on a work of 1559 by the Dutch artist Maarten van Heemskerck which circulated as an engraving by Dirck Volkertz Coornhert (1519/22-90) (see Schroder: 2004, p. 8).

Descriptive line

Silver-gilt dish, LOndon hallmarks for 1573-74, mark of Roger Flint, engraved with scrolling ornament, sea monsters and a central scene showing Abraham about to sacrifice Isaac.

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

Oman, Charles and Jonathan Mayne. Six Elizabethan Silver-Gilt Plates. The Burlington Magazine. July 1947, vol. 89, pp. 182 and 184-87.
Glanville, Philippa. Silver in Tudor and Early Stuart England. A Social History and Catalogue of the National Collection 1480-1660. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1990. ISBN 1851770305
Schroder, Timothy. Lord Burghley's silver spice dishes. Apollo. February 2004, vol. 159, pp. 3-12.
Taylor, Gerald. Some London platemakers' marks, 1558-1624, Proceedings of the Silver Society. 1984, vol. III.4, pp. 97-100.

Labels and date

London, 1573-4
Mark: FR conjoined
The engraved sea-monsters are similar to engravings by Adriaen Collaert of Antwerp (about 1560-1618) and the birds in roundels derive from engravings by Virgil Solis of Nuremberg (1514-1562). The engraving, of unusually high quality, is attributed to the engraver P over M, presumably a foreign visitor to London. The arms of Montague on the rim have been added later.

Acquired with funds from the Murray Bequest and the National Art-Collections Fund
M.55 to F-1946 [27/03/2003]
12. Spice Bowl.
Hallmarked for 1573-1574
This is one of a rare set of bowls intended for dessert or 'banqueting'. Dessert was often a costly feast, with expensive sweetmeats displayed on elaborately decorated and gilded dishes. Many great houses had banqueting rooms reserved for this activity. The engraved ornament was copied from Northern European prints. The central roundel depicts the biblical story of Abraham sacrificing his son, Isaac.
Silver gilt, engraved
Made in London by an unidentified maker, using the mark 'RF' in a shaped shield, possibly for Roger Flynt (active 1568-1584)
Coat of arms pounced on the rim may be for William Montagu of Oakley, Bedfordshire (died 1691).
Acquired through the Murray Bequest with the assistance of the National Art Collections Fund, an independent charity.
Museum no. M. 55b-1946 []


Silver; Gold


Raising; Engraving; Amalgam gilding

Subjects depicted

Foliage; Birds; Sea monsters; Coats of arms; Beasts


Tableware & cutlery; Metalwork


Metalwork Collection

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