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  • Place of origin:

    Utrecht (made)

  • Date:

    1602 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    van Vianen, Ernst Jansz. (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    silver, gilding, embossing, chasing, casting, raising

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

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

This is one of three surviving examples of work that can be attributed to the Utrecht silversmith Ernst Jansz. van Vianen. In part this is because his career in the trade appears to have been short, spanning from 1602, when works can be attributed to him, until 1614, when he inherited a brewery from his father. This shallow, highly decorated, bowl on a stem with a foot is a skilfully-wrought example of a form of vessel that had been popular since the early sixteenth-century. Generally referred to now as a 'tazza', after the Italian term, these footed bowls originated in Venice and were made in glass, but goldsmiths soon copied the form in precious metal. Sixteenth and seventeenth-century paintings show glass and metalwork tazzas being used to drink wine at table, or to serve delicacies such as biscuits, candied fruits, or fruit. The detailed scenes which decorate the bowls of precious metal examples suggest that many were also objects to be displayed and admired. Another, similar, tazza also made by Ernst in 1602 (and now in the Amsterdam Rijksmuseum) suggests he had been commissioned to make a series of tazze depicting scenes from Classical mythology.

Physical description

Tazza (shallow bowl on a central foot) of gilded silver, the bowl embossed and chased with the reclining figure of the dying Meleager, supported by an old man and by the huntress Atalanta, and surrounded by mourners which include Venus, Cupid and Meleager's dog. The wooded landscape includes a small church and, in the upper left beside a tree trunk, a boar to symbolize the boar which terrorized the land and which Meleager slew. At Meleager's feet, a torch, shield, hunting horn and spear. A pattern of acanthus leaves on the underside of the bowl; the baluster-shaped stem embossed with rams' heads, acanthus leaves and fruit motifs.

Place of Origin

Utrecht (made)


1602 (made)


van Vianen, Ernst Jansz. (maker)

Materials and Techniques

silver, gilding, embossing, chasing, casting, raising

Marks and inscriptions

Zig-zag assay marks on the outer rim of the bowl, on the base of the foot and underneath the outer rim of the foot.

Three marks stamped below the assay mark on the outer rim of the tazza. From left to right, these are:
Maker's mark of three lozenges in a shield-shaped punch (overstrikes assay mark). Probably the mark of Jan Sael van Vianen: see Utrechtse edelsmeden Van Vianen, cat. nos 2 and 3 (but compare Rosenberg (1928), III.iv, no. 7712; Citroen (1993), p. 148 and Houtzager (1970), no. 39).
Town mark of Utrecht, 1614 and earlier, a shield in a circular punch (see Rosenberg (1928), no. 4811 and Gans (1992), p. 144).
Date letter 'G' in a circular punch (stamped sideways here), for the Utrecht year system, representing 1602 (Gans (1992), p. 143).

No 762 LK2 x
Scratched faintly near the marks under the outer rim of the bowl.

:. I * S :.
Initials scratched on the underside of the outer rim of foot.


Weight: 754 g, Height: 17 cm, Diameter: 21.5 cm diameter of bowl, Diameter: 11.3 cm diameter of base

Object history note

Ernst Jansz. van Vianen was cousin to the innovative and renowned Utrecht silversmiths Adam and Paulus van Vianen. Ernst, though, was never accepted as a member of the Utrecht guild of goldsmiths and his output is small, almost certainly because he abandoned the trade in 1612 to concentrate on running a brewery he had inherited from his father (ter Molen (1984), I, p.115). Because there is no record of a maker's mark for Ernst, identification of his works rests on comparative stylistic and other documentary evidence. Identification is also helped by the fact that Ernst appears to have collaborated with family members on some works. The marks on the V&A 'Meleager' tazza are identical to those on another tazza dated 1602, now in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. Stylistic and documentary comparisons suggests the Amsterdam tazza was the result of a collaboration between different members of the van Vianen family. The Amsterdam tazza has an embossed scene in the bowl signed with the initials 'EDV' (the Latinized form 'Ernestus de Viana'). The scene depicts the gods on Mount Olympus, and the source for the composition is a design by Paulus van Vianen (now in the Kupferstichkabinett, Berlin). Given Ernst's collaboration with his cousin Paulus over this design, it is possible that the maker's mark of three lozenges in a shield on both the Amsterdam and the V&A tazzas belongs to another member of the van Vianen family who was a registered goldsmith. Jan Sael van Vianen, whose name appears in the guild register of goldsmiths between 1598 and 1616, is a likely candidate, although unfortunately no mark actually accompanies his name (see Houtzager (1970), no. 39 and the photograph of the register after p. vii).
Rosenberg (1928), III. iv, no. 7712, regretted the loss of the register of Utrecht goldsmiths marks for the years around 1600, and cautiously identified the mark as Ernst's own because it appears on the initialled Amsterdam tazza. The mark of three lozenges in a shield was also registered to another Utrecht goldsmith of the period, Aelbert Verhaer, which has led to the suggestion that Ernst was responsible for making only the tazza bowl, and that Verhaer made the stem and foot (den Blaauwen (1979), no. 8).
The similarity of their subject-matter and their identical date and maker strongly suggest the Amsterdam and the V&A tazzas were made as a pair. The V&A tazza, although not signed by Ernst, can also be linked to him on stylistic grounds. The pattern of oval motifs framed by scrolling cartouches which runs around its foot reappears around the upper rim of a highly ornate standing lidded cup made in 1604 for the Brewers' guild of Haarlem. Records show that Ernst was employed to chase the decoration on this cup, and received 90 florins 'for the chasing and carving of St Martin with the cripple and also for the moulding and construction of the silver cup', as well as 32 florins 'for the chasing of the cover, body and casing of the silver cup' (De Utrechtse edelsmeden Van Vianen, nos.1, 3, 3 and 33; Rosenberg (1928), III. iv, no. 7713, and den Blaauwen (1979), no. 11).
The Museum acquired the tazza for £36 in 1853, and identified it originally as French, about 1660 (South Kensington Museum: inventory of art objects, p.80).

Historical significance: Although a skilled silversmith, little is known about Ernst Janz. van Vianen and only three works survive that have been attributed to him (Frederiks (1952), I, pp. 16 - 21 and no. 11). It seems he worked closely with his father, Jan, and his cousin, Paulus, to produce his works, as is shown particularly by another tazza (now in Amsterdam) which was probably made as a pair to this one. The embossing in the bowl of this tazza shows how he skilfully varied the depth of the relief to emphasise the relative importance of the figures (Meleager, central to the composition, is shown in high relief), but its use of late-Renaissance motifs inspired by Classical ornament, and its traditional form give no suggestion of the extraordinarily fluid and innovative designs which his cousins Adam and Paulus would produce in the following decades.

Historical context note

This vessel is of a type that has come to be known by the Italian word 'tazza'. The form -- a shallow bowl set on a central stem -- originated in sixteenth-century Venice and tazzas were originally made in Venetian glass. They served as wine glasses, because their wide, flat bowls brought the liquid into as much contact with the air as possible, and thereby allowed wine to breathe. They could also be used to serve small, sugary sweets, biscuits or fruit. Goldsmiths copied the form of the tazza, and by the end of the sixteenth century the bowls and stem were elaborately embossed and chased. (See Gruber (1980), pp. 70-72). The increasingly detailed decoration on these pieces made them less functional: highly-wrought examples would probably have been reserved for display rather than for use. It seems likely this particular tazza was part of a larger set, decorated with Classical scenes. A tazza now in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, depicts the gods on Mount Olympus in the bowl, and is signed with Ernst's initials.

Descriptive line

Silver gilt; Netherlands (Utrecht), Ernst Jansz. van Vianen. Utrecht mark for 1602.

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

Gans, L. B. Goud- en Zilvermerken Van Voet. Leiden and Antwerp: Martinus Nijhoff Uitgevers, 1992. ISBN 9068903632
South Kensington Museum: inventory of art objects. London: Eyre and Spottiswoode for H.M.S.O., 1856-1863), bound as 1 volume
Houtzager, M. Elizabeth. Merken der Utrechtse Edelsmeden 1598 - 1740.Utrecht: Centraal Museum, 1970.
Rosenberg, Marc. Der Goldschmiede Merkzeichen. Frankfurt am Main, Frankfurter Verlags-Anstalt a.-g., 1922-28, 4 vols, IV: Ausland und Byzans
Frederiks, J. W. Dutch Silver, 4 vols. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1952, vol. I: Embossed plaquettes, tazze and dishes from the Renaissance until the end of the eighteenth century.
Zeldzaam zilver uit de Gouden Eeuw : de Utrechtse edelsmeden Van Vianen. Catalogue of an exhibition held at the Centraal Museum, Utrecht, in 1984-85. Utrecht : Centraal Museum, 1984.
ter Molen, J. R. Van Vianen: een Utrechtse familie van zilversmeden met een internationale faam. 2 vols. Rotterdam: Gemeentedrukkerij, 1984.
den Blaauwen, A. L.,ed. Nederlands zilver / Dutch silver. Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum, 1979. Catalogue of the exhibition held at the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, 1 December 1979 - 10 February 1980; The Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo, Ohio, March 23 - 20 April 1980; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts, May 13 - 22 June 1980. ISBN 9012025710
Gruber, Alain. Silverware. (English translation of Argenterie de maison). New York: Rizzoli, 1982. ISBN 0847804402

Labels and date

Silver-gilt, embossed with the death of Meleager.
Mark probably of Ernst van Vianen
Dutch; Utrecht mark for 1602 []




Gilding; Chasing; Embossing; Casting; Raising


Metalwork Collection

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