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Cup

  • Place of origin:

    Kaliningrad (made)

  • Date:

    mid 17th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Amber with gilt brass mounts

  • Museum number:

    659-1904

  • Gallery location:

    Europe 1600-1815, Room 6, The Lisa and Bernard Selz Gallery, case CA11

This two handled cup was made in the mid-17th century in Königsberg (then in Prussia, now Kaliningrad in Russia) by an unknown artist. It has elegant arabesque gilt handles, each set with an oval amber boss. The form of this cup parallels other mid-17th century silver vessels produced in the Baltic region.

This cup would have been a prime candidate for a Kunstkammer collection of precious objects. British cabinets of curiosity often differed from the Continental equivalents, known as Kunstkammer or Wunderkammer ('cabinet of art of wonders') in being less systematic, but their contents were similar. Natural curiosities were combined with man-made works of art, and a particular emphasis was placed on exotic materials, such as amber, ivory and rock crystal, often elaborately worked. Cabinets such as that formed by John Tradescant (which forms the basis of the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford), and the Paston family at Oxnead Hall, Norfolk, contained numerous shells and mother-of-pearl carvings, as well as objects of antiquarian interest. Collections formed by the king and the nobility generally had a higher proportion of works of art.

Physical description

Elegant arabesque gilt handles are both set with an oval amber boss; their form parallels those of mid-17th century silver vessels. Figurative carvings depict trophies of animals and fruit. The foot of the cup is adorned with three metal panels carved with fantastic sea-creatures.

Place of Origin

Kaliningrad (made)

Date

mid 17th century (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Amber with gilt brass mounts

Dimensions

Height: 117 mm, Diameter: 70 mm base, Diameter: 114 mm cup, Width: 170 mm

Object history note

English cabinets differed from the continental equivalent known as the Kunstkammer or Wunderkammer ('cabinet of art of wonders') in being less systematic but their contents were similar. Natural curiosities were combined with man-made and a particular emphasis was placed on exotic materials, often elaborately worked. Cabinets such as that formed by John Tradescant (which forms the basis of the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford) and the Paston family at Oxnead Hall, Norfolk, contained considerable amounts of shells and mother-of-pearl as well as objects of antiquarian interest, so differing from the collections formed by the king and the nobility which consisted largely of works of art.

Historical context note

This cup would have been a prime candidate for a Kunstkammer collection of precious objects.

Descriptive line

Cup, two-handled with figurative carvings of animals and fruit, amber with gilt brass mounts, Germany (Königsberg), mid 17th century

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

Trusted, Marjorie. Catalogue of European Ambers in the Victoria and Albert Museum. London : Victoria and Albert Museum, 1985. 119 p., ill. ISBN 0948107138.
Inventory of Works of Art Acquired by the Victoria and Albert Museum in the Years 1903 - 1904. In: List of Works of Art Acquired by the Victoria and Albert Museum, During the Year 1904, Arranged According to the Dates of Acquisition with Appendix and Indices. London: Printed for His Majesty's Stationery Office, by Wyman and Sons, Limited, 1908, p. 113

Labels and date

TWO HANDLED CUP
German, Königsberg (now Kaliningrad, Russia); about 1650
Amber, gilt brass mounts

This cup was probably made especially for the Cabinet of Curiosities. Workshops of Amber carvers in the early 17th century produced many such objects for collectors. The use of clear amber meant that carvings could be seen from both sides, so the cup was intended to be picked up and looked at from all angles. Each of the seven panels that make up the sides of the cup has a carving of an animal: a pelican, a stag, an eagle, a squirrel, a fox, a swan and a rabbit.
[1993 - 2011]

Production Note

Königsberg was till 1945 the capital of German province of East Prussia. Since then it is Kaliningrad, in today's Russia

Materials

Amber; Brass; Gold

Techniques

Gilded

Subjects depicted

Acanthus; Eagle; Rabbit; Pelican; Squirrel; Fox; Sea creatures; Stag; Swan

Categories

Drinking; Sculpture

Collection

Sculpture Collection

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