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  • Place of origin:

    Flanders (possibly, made)
    Germany (possibly, made)

  • Date:

    late 15th century-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:

    Metalware, Room 116, The Belinda Gentle Gallery, case 1

Northern European brass basins dating from the 15th century adopted a form that had been popular since medieval times, with a small diameter and deep sides. The whole of the bottom of the inside of these basins was covered with stamped relief decoration. The subject matter usually fell into one of three categories: scenes from classical antiquity, themes from the Old or New Testaments, or allegorical figures personifying vices and virtues.

The subject depicted in this basin is the Annunciation, described in the Bible in Luke 1: 26-28, when the angel Gabriel tells the Virgin Mary: ‘You shall conceive and bear a son, and you shall give him the name Jesus.’ This is the moment at which the Incarnation of Christ is believed to have taken place. The feast of the Annunciation is celebrated on 25 March, nine months before the Nativity. The prevalence of the theme in Christian art reflects its doctrinal importance: the widespread dedication of churches, chapels and altars to the Annunciation led to a diffusion of the subject in places of worship.

Brass dishes that were exported to Britain were sometimes used as alms dishes. Elsewhere their function was primarily secular, even if their iconography was principally religious. 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.

Centres of brass production in late medieval Europe tended to be situated close to plentiful sources of calamine, the carbonate of zinc that, when smelted with copper, produced brass alloy. The brass industry in northern Europe was concentrated between the Meuse and Rhine rivers, where the most important deposits of calamine lay. The main centres of production were the Attenberg and Holberg mines, both near Aachen, and the Kornelimünster and Gressenich, which lie between Givet and Liège. The two latter mines were the principal sources of supply for the town of Dinant, which was the biggest centre of brass production until the town was sacked by the Duke of Burgundy in 1466. Brass production in Nuremberg and Aachen henceforth assumed greater importance, while refugee brassworkers found their way to neighbouring towns such as Brussels, Namur and Malines.

Physical description

In the centre of the dish is shown the Annunciation, which is surrounded by a leaf border. The dish has a lobed side and stamped decoration on the rim.

Place of Origin

Flanders (possibly, made)
Germany (possibly, made)


late 15th century-early 16th century (made)



Materials and Techniques

Brass, hammered in relief and stamped


Diameter: 10.1 in

Descriptive line

Brass dish depicting The Annunciation and surrounded by a leaf border, Flemish or German, late 15th century or early 16th century




Hammered; Stamped

Subjects depicted





Metalwork Collection

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