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  • Place of origin:

    Nuremberg (made)

  • Date:

    1605-1610 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Silver, gilded, raised, embossed, chased, engraved and cast.

  • Credit Line:

    Gift of Mr. E.A. Phillips through The Art Fund

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Europe 1600-1815, Room 6, The Lisa and Bernard Selz Gallery, case CA2 []

Physical description

Silver cup and lid, the bowl and lid shaped with six lobes, the foot with three lobes; six scenes from the Old Testament engraved round the rim of the cup; three winged grotesque female figures cast and applied to the stem; the lid has a replacement finial in the form of foliage, and round the rim is embossed cherub heads which alternate with apples; around the finial, the lid is embossed with three apples. The inside of the lid and bowl are gilded.

Place of Origin

Nuremberg (made)


1605-1610 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Silver, gilded, raised, embossed, chased, engraved and cast.

Marks and inscriptions

The letters 'B' and 'C' engraved on the underside of the bowl, near the stem, and on the rim of the underside of the lid.
The punched letters 'ER-' visible on the plaque which supports the cast elements of the stem. This is presumably part of the inscription 'BEN.CER' (or 'CEN') recorded by scholars (Seelig: 2002, p. 191).
Two names are incorporated into the engraving of the Old Testament scene of Jacob's Dream (Genesis 28, 11-12). The word 'IACOBVS', engraved in majuscule letters, is incorporated as the railing along the bridge across the river to the town in the background of the scene. The name 'iacob scheib' (or possibly 'iacob schr') is engraved in a cursive script along the wall of a house depicted in the background to the proper right of Jacob's ladder.


Height: 35 cm Base of foot to top of finial on lid., Diameter: 13 cm Maximum diameter across lid, Width: 9.5 cm Maximum width across foot., Weight: 755.5 g Cup and lid together

Object history note

Sixteenth and seventeenth century German goldsmiths referred to this type of cup as an 'akeleypokal' or columbine cup, because its shape recalls the petals and bell-like form of the columbine flower. Cups like these were made to demonstrate the metalworking skills of candidates who wished to join the goldsmiths' guild in German towns, and they were also commissioned as gifts and used for display and ceremonial dining. This cup is one of a small group of late sixteenth- and early-seventeenth-century examples which are unusual because they are neither gilded nor stamped with an assay mark. It has been suggested that the V&A cup represents a model for aspiring goldsmiths to copy, but the good condition of the cup, its lack of marks, and the existence of other, similar, ones, would seem to make this unlikely (Hayward: 1979, p. 202). Indeed, the gilding on the interior of the cup may be early and would suggest the piece was sometimes used. The figural decoration on the piece is also unusual: it combines six engraved scenes from the Old Testament round the rim of the bowl with six figures of putti embossed in high relief around the base of the bowl. Each putto holds attributes that represent the Liberal Arts. Four of the engraved scenes are closely based on engravings of Old Testament subjects published in the 1560s by the French engraver Étienne Delaune (Seelig: 2002, p. 191 and see Pollet: 2002, I, nos 57, 60, 116 and 82). The cup was once attributed to the hand of the Nuremberg goldsmith Christoph Jamnitzer (1563-1618), who published a series of designs for ornament in 1610, and who counted the Emperor Rudolph II as a patron; more recently it has been attributed to a follower of Jamnitzer (Seelig: 2002, p. 193). The significance of the initials 'B. C.' stamped on the lid and foot, and the letters 'BEN. CER' (or 'CEN') on the stem (which are mostly invisible because of their position) is not clear. They have been interpreted as a light-hearted allusion by Christoph to his skilled predecessor, the Italian goldsmith Benvenuto Cellini (d. 1571), intended to remind the viewer of Jamnitzer's own talent, as well as simply the name of a member of Jamnitzer's workshop (Seelig: 2002, p. 193). The name 'Jacob', added twice in minute lettering to the scene of Jacob's Dream, is probably the signature of the engraver. The way the words are subtly worked into the design of the scene using different styles of lettering, suggest they are only meant to be discovered, if at all, by close looking. By contrast, the print source for the scene, Étienne Delaune's Première suite de l'Ancien Testament (1561), identifies the sleeping prophet with the name 'IACOB' clearly engraved in the lower left of the image.

Descriptive line

Silver, engraved and chased (the finial a modern replacement), 1605-1610 (or possibly later), Germany (Nuremberg)

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

Seelig, Lorenz. Akeleypokal. In: Renate Eikelmann, ed. Der Mohrenkopfpokal von Christoph Jamnitzer. Catalogue of the exhibition held at the Bayerisches Nationalmuseum, Munich, 17 April - 7 July 2002. Nuremberg: Bayerisches Nationalmuseum, 2002. ISBN 3925058478
Pechstein, Klaus, ed. Deutsche Goldschmeidekunst: vom 15. bis zum 20. Jahurhundert aus dem Germanischen Nationalmuseum. Exhibition Catalogue. Nuremberg: Germanisches Nationalmuseum / Berlin: W. Arenhövel, 1987. ISBN 3922912222
Schürer, Ralf. Der Akeleypokal. Überlegungen zu einem Meisterstück. In: Bott, Gerhard, ed. Wenzel Jamnitzer und die Nürnberger Goldschmiedekunst 1500-1700: Entwürfe, Modelle, Medaillen, Ornamentstiche, Schmuck, Porträts. Catalogue of the exhibition at the Germanischen Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg, 28 June - 15 September 1985. ISBN 3781402533
Hayward, John. Virtuoso Goldsmiths and the Triumph of Mannerism, 1540-1620. London: Sotheby Parke Bernet, 1976. ISBN 0856670057
O'Dell, Ilse. Nuremberg Master Goldsmiths' Applications in Print, 1614-1786. Print Quarterly. March 2007, vol. 24.1. pp. 38-41.
Pollet, Christophe. Les gravures d'Étienne Delaune (1518-1583). 2 vols, Villeneuve d'Asq: Presses Universitaires du Septentrion, 2001.

Labels and date

Silver, unmarked.
GERMAN. Nuremberg. In the manner of Christoph Jamnitzer.
Between about 1590 and 1610.
The finial is a modern replacement by courtesy of S. J. Phillips Ltd.
Given by Mr E. A. Phillips.
The columbine cup, so-called because of the resemblance of its bowl to the flower, was evolved by German goldsmiths in the middle of the 16th century. A great many of this type were made because in the last quarter of the century the Goldsmiths' Guild of Nuremberg exacted a cup of this form from all the craftsmen aspiring to the rank of master. These cups remained the property of the Guild and so it was not necessary for them to be marked. Although because of this the cup lacks conventional marks, it is stamped in three pieces with the letters B.C., and on the bracket above the foot, with the letters BEN. CER. One of the engraved scenes at the top of the cup bears the minute signatures Jacobus S., and Jacob Sch(e?)ib. These scenes depict The Fall, The Murder of Abel, The Flood, Lot and his Daughters, The Sacrifice of Isaac and Jacob's Dream. The putti on the lower part of bowl depict the Arts and Sciences. The cup has been associated with Christoph Jamnitzer on the basis of the style of the putti and of the grotesque masks. [1974]




Drinking; Metalwork; Silver


Metalwork Collection

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