Wine cup, fire

WB.97.L     about 1590–1600 • Silver-gilt • tazza


Curator's Description

Tazza, silver-gilt. Embossed and chased, one of a set of twelve. Relief depicts Jupiter as male figure emblematic of Fire (Ignis), riding on eagle through sky, above a rocky landscape with smoke rising from a chimney. His torso is naked with his robe billowing behind him. His right arm is raised and he holds a thunderbolt in his clenched fist. Narrow classical inner border, wider outer border with four lion masks at cardinal points, linked by strapworked drapery and fleur-de-lis motifs. Circular domed foot decorated in two stages, lower section with winged cherub heads, scrollwork and fruit, upper with drapery and pendant folds, tassels and scrolls. Stem in baluster form, chased with strapwork lions-masks, fruit and drapery, with short upper section with profiled ring and four scroll-brackets curving up to bowl. Underneath foot is a small disc engraved with an angel holding drapery in which an oval shield in a cartouche bears the arms of the Counts of Thun, Tirol and Bohemia.

This object was collected by Anselm von Rothschild and bequeathed to the British Museum by Ferdinand Anselm Rothschild.

How big is it?

20.6 cm wide, 13.5 cm high, 20.6 cm deep, and it weighs 480g

Detailed Curatorial Notes

Text from Tait 1988:

'Origin: Mark of Paul Hübner; Augsburg, c. 1595.

Marks: On the undecorated rim of the foot, two marks are punched close together:

(i) Assay mark for Augsburg, 1591-5 (?) and probably later (R3 129) or, perhaps, Seling 28 (1600-10).

(ii) The monogram PH within a shield: punch-mark of Paul Hübner, master 1583, died 1614. (R3410; Seling 982).

Commentary on this tazza: For the first time in this set, Paul Hübner has used a male figure. Significantly, Hübner also used the same ‘Jupiter and eagle’ figure group in his small set of twelve tazze purchased by the Archbishop of Salzburg in 1594 from the merchant Bartholomäus Fesenmayer (see K. Rossacher, ‘Der Schatz des Erzstiftes Salzburg’, Salzburg, 1966, p. 143 with illus.; also Seling 1980, p. 254, fig. 201). Dr Weber has pointed out its close relationship to the woodcut by Jost Amman, reproduced in the ‘Kunstbüchlein’ of 1599 (Weber 1970, p. 343). The only significant departure from the 1594 tazza is the downward twist of Jupiter's head on the Waddesdon Bequest tazza. Although the landscapes are not the same, the same huge furnace with its smoking chimney is repeated on the left side of both landscapes. The bold attempt by Paul Hübner to create the impression of an aerial view is perhaps more successful on the Waddesdon Bequest tazza but, again, it is a daring, new idea which has few rivals at this date, c. 1595-1600.

Commentary on the set of twelve tazze.

Origin: Augsburg; end of 16th century; mark of Raimund Laminit (master about 1568, died 1600) on one tazza (cat. no. 24) and mark of Paul Hübner (master 1583, died 1614) on eleven tazze (cat. nos 25-35).

Condition: Apart from minor signs of wear, the occasional short split at the centre of some of the bowls and the addition of new screws on the reverse, none of the bowls, stems or feet are rubbed or altered. There is one identical later addition to each of the twelve tazze: underneath the foot, in the centre, a small, gently convex disc of silver engraved with the arms of the Counts von Thun, of Tirol and Bohemia.

Provenance: Baron Anselm von Rothschild, Vienna, before 1866 (cat. no. 260), by inheritance to his son Baron Ferdinand Rothschild (d. 1898).

Commentary: The tazza is a form of utilitarian vessel that during the early Italian Renaissance became increasingly popular, no doubt because of its very obvious classical shape. The fashion spread north of the Alps, certainly reaching England before 1530, as the famous Rochester Cathedral tazze and the Holbein drawing demonstrate (see Hugh Tait, London Huguenot Silver, ‘Huguenots in Britain and their French Background, 1550-1800’ (ed. I. Scouloudi), London, 1987, pp. 92-3, pl. 1, figs 1-3). However, it was only in the second half of the sixteenth century that the flat area of the tazza bowl was frequently embossed and chased with a scene in relief, the subject usually being drawn from classical mythology or the standard Christian iconography.

Although this artistic treatment of the bowl transformed the tazza into a work of virtuosity in keeping with the tastes of Mannerist Court art, it did not negate the functional aspect of the tazza. Pictorial evidence about the use of tazze is inadequate, but enough survives to show that they were used both for drinking and for placing on the table with fruit piled high on them. No doubt banquets held at the courts of Renaissance princes would require large sets of silver tazze, so that each guest had an individual tazza just as the numerous Venetian Renaissance glass tazze would have graced the tables of the less grand palazzi of Italy and elsewhere. A fair impression can still be gained in the Palazzo Pitti where fifty-four tazze belonging to Wolf Dietrich von Raitenau, Archbishop of Salzburg (1587-1612), have survived; they have been published by Kirsten Aschengreen Piacenti, ‘IlMuseo degli Argenti a Firenze’, Florence 1967, no. 599 f, pp. 603-8; K. Rossacher, ‘Der Schatz des Erzstiftes Salzburg’, Salzburg 1966; and more recently they have been studied for their reliefs by Ingrid Weber (Weber 1970). According to the 1612 Inventory of the Archbishop's Silberkammer, he had purchased in 1590 three dozen tazze from the Augsburg goldsmith Paul Hübner (died 1614), and, four years later, he had bought twelve more by Hübner - slightly smaller than the original thirty-six - from the Augsburg merchant Bartholomäus Fesenmayer, who at this time was also supplying plate to the Bavarian Court in Munich. Evidently a total of forty-eight tazze was not enough, because in the same year, 1594, the Archbishop had acquired a further six from his own treasurer, Paul Endris. These six tazze are by another Augsburg goldsmith, Kornelius Erb (died 1618), and in a number of respects do not match the rest. Although Kornelius Erb's six subjects (Faith, Hope and Charity; Summer, Autumn and Winter) are in no way exceptional, it is clear that they come from a larger series, the rest having been lost. Paul Hübner's forty-eight tazze, on the other hand, do form coherent sets: the twelve months of the year; twelve scenes from the Old Testament relating to the story of Jacob; and two sets of twelve tazze, each comprising the Four Elements (Fire, Earth, Water and Air) and the Virtues (the three theological or Christian Virtues: Faith, Hope and Charity; the Cardinal Virtues of Plato: Prudence, Justice, Fortitude and Temperance; and the eighth Virtue, Patience).

Despite the variety of subjects, Hübner's forty-eight tazze in the Archbishop's collection have a visual unity through the use of a simple, restrained classical border encircling each relief, which in fact leaves plain more than half of the curving wall of the tazza bowl. By contrast, the six tazze by Kornelius Erb have borders of exactly the same design as the Waddesdon Bequest set of twelve, eleven of which are by Hübner. Furthermore, the feet on the Kornelius Erb set of six are very close in general design to the Waddesdon Bequest set, whereas the other forty-eight examples do not have this distinctive two-tier, domed foot. The Kornelius Erb tazze, however, have a fussy design of stem, with three large protruding brackets, that does not compare favourably with either of the other solutions. Unfortunately, there is no archival evidence to show how long the six Kornelius Erb tazze had been in the possession of the Archbishop's Treasurer, Paul Endris, though there is a tendency in the most recent literature to abandon Rossacher's dating “1580-1585” in favour of “about 1590-1594” (see Seling 1980, figs 182-4). As a result, the Waddesdon Bequest set of eleven tazze by Hübner is dated by Dr Seling to the last five years of the sixteenth century, and, though it seems most improbable, Dr Seling has dated the single Raimund Laminit tazza to “um 1600”, the very year of his death. Certainly, the workmanship (especially the chasing and the engraving) on the Charity roundel of the Laminit tazza is quite distinct from the remainder. It is undoubtedly by a different hand. The question is when? The evidence for a precise dating of the Waddesdon Bequest set of twelve tazze is still lacking, and the presumption that the set postdates the Archbishop of Salzburg's fifty-four tazze has still to be proved.


  • Franz Schestag, ‘katalog der Kuntsammlung des Freiherrn Anselm von Rothschild in Wein’ Vienna, 1866, no. 260
  • Charles Hercules Read, ‘The Waddesdon Bequest: Catalogue of the Works of Art bequeathed to the British Museum by Baron Ferdinand Rothschild, M.P., 1898’, London, 1902, no. 97, pl. XXII
  • Marc Rosenberg, ‘Der Goldschmiede Merkzeichen’, 3rd edn, Frankfurt, vol. I, 1922, p. 57, R3 410 (e)
  • O.M. Dalton, ‘The Waddesdon Bequest’, 2nd edn (rev), British Museum, London, 1927, no. 97
  • Ingrid Weber, Bildvorlagen für Silberreliefs an Arbeiten von Paul Hübner und Kornelius Erb, heute im Palazzo Pitti und im Britischen Museum, ‘Mitteilungen des Kunsthistorischen Instituts in Florenz’, vol. 14, pt. III, June 1970, Florence, pp. 323-68, figs 16 and 22
  • J. F. Hayward, ‘Virtuoso Goldsmiths and the Triumphs of Mannerism 1540-1620’, Sotheby Parke Bernet Publications, London, 1976, p.234
  • H. Seling, ‘Die Kunst de Augsburger Goldschmiede 1529-1868’ 3 vols., Munich, 1980, p. 71, no. 799 (B), pp. 96-7, no. 982 (g), figs 212-17
  • Hugh Tait, ‘The Waddesdon Bequest: The Legacy of Baron Ferdinand Rothschild to the British Museum’, London, 1981 p. 69, fig. 47
  • Hannelore Müller, ‘European Silver: The Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection’, Sotheby’s Publications, London, 1986, p. 158, note 1
  • Hugh Tait, 'Catalogue of the Waddesdon Bequest in the British Museum, II : The Silver Plate', British Museum, London, 1988, nos. 24 - 35, pl.VIIIA, figs. 155-178.
  • References

    1. Read 1902: Read, Charles Hercules, The Waddesdon Bequest. Catalogue of the Works of Art Bequeathed to the British Museum by Baron Ferdinand Rothschild, M.P., 1898, London, BMP, 1902
    2. Dalton 1927: Dalton, Ormonde Maddock, The Waddesdon Bequest : jewels, plate, and other works of art bequeathed by Baron Ferdinand Rothschild., London, BMP, 1927
    3. Tait 1988: Tait, Hugh, Catalogue of the Waddesdon Bequest in the British Museum; II The Silver Plate, London, BMP, 1988

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