Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.


  • 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 Dr W. L. Hildburgh FSA

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

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 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 centre of this basin shows the Virgin and Child. As the mother of Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary has an exceedingly rich iconography that is due only in small part to the Gospels but rather seems to have grown over the centuries out of the need of the Christian Church for a mother figure - the object of worship that lay at the centre of many ancient religions. The designation of the Virgin Mary as the ‘Mother of God’ was endorsed by the Council of Ephesus in 431. Thereafter the image of the Mother and Child as a representation of official doctrine gained ground throughout the Christian Church. The cult of the Virgin remained a statement of faith throughout the Middle Ages and the challenge to her role made by the Reformation in the 16th century served only to give fresh impetus to her portrayal by those who venerated her.

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 Virgin and Child in a flaming mandorla. Above, two cherubs hold a crown.

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 in, Height: 2.625 in

Descriptive line

Brass dish depicting the Virgin and Child, with two cherubs holding a crown, Flemish or German, late 15th or early 16th century




Hammered; Stamped

Subjects depicted

Crown; Mandorla; Cherubs; Virgin and Child




Metalwork Collection

Large image request

Please confirm you are using these images within the following terms and conditions, by acknowledging each of the following key points:

Please let us know how you intend to use the images you will be downloading.