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Cup

  • Place of origin:

    Germany (possibly, made)

  • Date:

    19th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Shaped and polished agate, with silver-gilt mounts

  • Museum number:

    389-1854

  • Gallery location:

    Silver, Room 66, The Whiteley Galleries, case 2, shelf 2

Exotic mounted pieces, such as hard stone, rock crystal, or mother-of-pearl, were greatly prized in late medieval and Renaissance times and were within the grasp of only the very wealthy. With their implication of status, sophistication, and taste, such jewel-like objects were given a prominent place in aristocratic 'cabinets of curiosities'. Since few genuine examples survived, however, a thriving market developed for made-up and 'improved' mounted hard stones.

This exotic and sumptuously decorated cup was bought at a time when the Museum was actively seeking out German silver. When it was acquired, it was considered a splendid example of late Gothic metalwork and was embraced as one of the stellar pieces in the collection. It has consistently been published in the standard accounts of Gothic goldsmiths' work, and has only recently been reconsidered in relation to comparable objects in European collections. On the basis of certain construction features--such as the jointed stem, separate handle, and round foot disguised with a lobed mount--along with the object's total lack of wear and the absence of information about its early provenance, the cup has been reclassified as an example of 19th century, rather than Gothic, goldsmiths' work.

Physical description

Elegantly shaped cup of softly coloured agate with intricate silver-gilt mounts around the base, neck and mouth, and to form the handle.

Place of Origin

Germany (possibly, made)

Date

19th century (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Shaped and polished agate, with silver-gilt mounts

Dimensions

Height: 15.5 cm, Width: 15.5 cm, Depth: 14.3 cm

Object history note

This exotic and sumptuously decorated cup was bought at a time when the Museum was actively seeking out German silver. When it was acquired, it was considered a splendid example of Late Gothic metalwork and was embraced as one of the stellar pieces in the collection. Exotic mounted pieces, such as hard stone, rock crystal, or mother-of-pearl, were greatly prized in late medieval and Renaissance times and were within the grasp of only the very wealthy. With their implications of status, sophistication, and taste, such jewel-like objects were given a prominent place in aristocratic "cabinets of curiosities." These very qualities also made such pieces highly attractive to eighteenth- and nineteenth-century collectors. Since few genuine examples had survived, however, a thriving market developed for made-up and "improved" mounted hard stones. This cup, consistently published in the standard accounts of Gothic goldsmiths' work, has only recently been reconsidered in relation to comparable objects in European collections. On the basis of certain construction features-such as the jointed stem, separate handle, and round foot disguised with a lobed mount-along with the object's total lack of wear and the absence of information about its early provenance, the cup has been reclassified as an example of nineteenth-century rather than Gothic goldsmiths' work.

Descriptive line

Cup, German (?), 19th century, in the style of ca. 1475, agate with silver-gilt mounts.

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

Baker, Malcolm, and Brenda Richardson (eds.), A Grand Design: The Art of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London: V&A Publications, 1999.

Labels and date

GOBLET
Agate mounted in silver-gilt
German; about 1500 []
STANDING CUP
Agate mounted in silver gilt
South German (perhaps Freiburg im Breisgau and Nuremberg); about 1490-1500
This exotic piece would probably have been made for presentation. It is one of a small number of surviving late Gothic drinking vessels made of semi-precious stone, perhaps from Freiburg im Breisgau, where such stones were carved. The contorted foliage of the mounts conceals tiny cast figures of dogs and hunting stags. These might have been made in Nuremberg, an important centre for goldsmiths. The cup would originally have had a cover, equally lavish in decoration. []

Materials

Agate; Silver; Gold

Techniques

Shaping; Gilding; Metalworking

Categories

Containers

Collection

Metalwork Collection

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