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  • Place of origin:

    Germany (made)

  • Date:

    early 16th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Brass, hammered in relief and stamped

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Misses E. C. and A. F. Vernet

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

By the early 16th century, northern European brass dishes had become greater in diameter, the depressions shallower and the flanges of the rims wider than they had been in the 15th century. Pictorial themes continued to be used in decoration but the wider bases afforded scope for an increasing use of abstract decoration. A central motif might be bounded by one or two concentric bands of decoration - either interlaced scroll-like waves or lettering. This decoration was not necessarily embossed with punches in the traditional manner but was often cast in the mould at an earlier stage in the manufacture. The inscriptions themselves were usually meaningless and were incorporated into the overall design merely for their decorative value. On this example the central image is set within a border of leaves, floral scrolls and an inscription, all made with repeating stamps.

Production of such bowls was centred in Nuremberg but not exclusively. Other centres of brass production were Dinant in Flanders and its immediate neighbourhood, from Bouvignes to Aachen. Techniques and styles were copied with equal facility everywhere so it is difficult to assign a place of manufacture within northern Europe to any dish produced during the 16th and 17th centuries. For example, not only did the export of dishes from the Dinant area provide prototypes for others to follow, but the downfall of the town in 1466 to Charles the Bold of Burgundy saw the dispersal of refugee metalworkers.

Those dishes exported to Britain were sometimes used as alms dishes. Elsewhere their function was primarily secular. European paintings of domestic interiors show that they were frequently used in conjunction with lavabos (basins) or ewers, also in brass, for washing hands after a meal. Before the 17th century, when forks became customary, such equipment was essential to any dining table.

The subject depicted in the centre is the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God). The lamb was the sacrificial animal in ancient Near Eastern religious rites, including those of the Hebrews, and was adopted by early Christians as the symbol of Christ in his sacrificial role. The substitution of a ram at the sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham, an echo of the historical change from human to animal sacrifice in primitive society, was seen as a foreshadowing of the death of Christ, himself a sacrificial substitute for mankind. From its other attributes, real or imaginary, the lamb became associated with personifications of innocence, gentleness, patience and humility.

Physical description

In the centre is depicted the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God); this is within a border of leaves, floral scrolls and the inscription, all done with repeating stamps. The rim is stamped with leaves and flowers.

Place of Origin

Germany (made)


early 16th century (made)



Materials and Techniques

Brass, hammered in relief and stamped

Marks and inscriptions

Inscription; decoration; stamped


Diameter: 16.2 in

Descriptive line

Brass dish depicting the Agnus Dei, German, early 16th century




Hammered; Stamped

Subjects depicted

Agnus Dei; Scrolls; Leaves




Metalwork Collection

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