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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 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 embossed female figure holding a flower and a wreath at the centre of this dish is possibly an illusion to Flora, the ancient Roman goddess of flowers. Her festival, the Floralia, was celebrated with much licentiousness. She is also the emblem for spring.

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 a seated woman holding in one hand a wreath, and in the other a branch with flowers.

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: 9.5 in, Height: 3 in

Descriptive line

Brass dish showing a seated womanholding a wreath and a branch with flowers, Flemish or German, late 15th or early 16th century




Hammered; Stamped

Subjects depicted

Wreath; Women; Flowers




Metalwork Collection

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