Wine cup, charity

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


Curator's Description

Tazza; silver-gilt; embossed and chased; Charity in landscape with dog and child; border of strapwork scrolls etc; inscribed.; knop chased in relief with festoons, lion masks, etc; inscribed.; foot similar to border; bottom of foot with convex plate engraved with arms of Count von Thun of Bavaria; inscribed.

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

How big is it?

20.5 cm wide, 14.3 cm high, 20.5 cm deep, and it weighs 482g

Detailed Curatorial Notes

Text from Tait 1988:-

Origin: Mark of Raimund Laminit; Augsburg, c.1590

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 21 (1595-1600).

(ii) The monogram RL within a shield: punch-mark of Raimund Laminit (Seling 799).

Commentary on this tazza: Works by Raimund Laminit (master c. 1568, when his marriage is recorded; died 1600) are extremely rare and as recently as 1980 only two other extant works are listed (Seling 1980, III, p. 71, no. 799):

(a) The monstrance of 1580, with the arms of Hans Fugger and his wife, Elizabeth Nothaft, from the parish church of Kirchheim an der Mindel (see exhibition catalogue ‘Fugger und Welser’, Augsburg, 1950, no. 206).

(b) The altar-vase with silver flowers (Museum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte, Dortmund - see catalogue ‘Gold und Silber’, Dortmund, 1965, no. 32, with illus., where it is dated “um 1570”; Dr Seling, however, has most recently published it as “um 1600”).

Dr Seling also quotes from the Vienna Hofkammer archives the evidence relating to other works supplied by this goldsmith between 1571 and 1592; however, no other example of Laminit's skill in the exacting art of making a silver relief of this complex nature has been discovered, and it is therefore necessary to examine critically this tazza in relation to the others by Paul Hübner and Kornelius Erb.

From the evidence of the different sets of tazze in the Palazzo Pitti, Florence, it is clear that Paul Hübner drew upon two different sources and so created two quite distinct and separate emblematic figure groups of Charity, one being used in the larger set (purchased from Hübner in 1590) and the other being used in the smaller set of twelve by Hübner that were purchased in 1594 from Fesenmayer. The Raimund Laminit Charity relief in the Waddesdon Bequest is a very close variant of the first version used on the larger set purchased in 1590, as will be discussed in detail below, but has recently been published as “um 1600” (Seling 1980,II, p. 255, fig. 217; also in, p. 71, no. 799b). The Kornelius Erb Charity tazza with its tall standing figure group has been shown to be derived from a third and quite independent source - a set of eleven roundels preserved in the print collection of the Albertina, Vienna (Weber 1970, pp. 352 ff., figs 32-3). Therefore, the apparent link between the Waddesdon Bequest set and the Kornelius Erb set of six (because of the use of identical framing borders) is not sustained when the reliefs of the three theological Virtues are compared. None has any connection with the Waddesdon Bequest set.

The source of Paul Hübner's unrelated Charity (in the 1594 set of twelve smaller tazze) has been conclusively established as a woodcut by the gifted Swiss artist and engraver Jost Amman (1539-91), who, although born in Zurich, spent most of his working life in Nuremberg and whose ‘Kunstbüchlein’, published posthumously in Frankfurt in 1599, contained a selection of his woodcuts issued over many years in his highly productive lifetime (Weber 1970, p. 344, figs 19-20). The woodcut reproduced in the ‘Kunstbüchlein’ depicts a seated woman whose right hand holds her right leg crossed over the left knee and shows her head turned in profile to face the standing child on her left. When compared with the 1594 tazza in the Palazzo Pitti it is clear that Hübner has copied the woodcut in every detail, only modifying some of the more agitated drapery folds, and supplying a landscape setting which was absent in the woodcut by Jost Amman.

Jost Amman had close links with the world of goldsmiths, for his elder brother was a member of the craft and in 1574 Jost himself married Barbara Wilck, the widow of a Nuremberg goldsmith. However, he is known not only as a designer of jewellery or goldsmiths' work but as an artist; indeed, in 1577 he was granted citizenship of Nuremberg because of his fame as a painter and engraver – “als Maler und Kupferstueckreisser sei er mit seiner Kunst beruehmt und trefflich”. He had in 1560 joined the Nuremberg workshop of the engraver and artist Virgil Solis (1514-62), and on the latter's sudden death was able to develop the existing good connections with the Frankfurt publisher Feyerabend. Jost Amman's own publications were all produced in Frankfurt – ‘Imagines Artium’ (1568), ‘Ein Neuw Thierbuch’ (1569) and ‘Kunst und Lehrbuechlein’ (1578). His woodcuts were used to illustrate, for example, scenes from the Bible and ancient history, as well as herbals and books on costume, heraldry and cookery. The great popularity of ‘Ein Neuw Thierbuch’ ('A New Book of Animals') was in part due to the explanatory verses of Georg Schaller, but the very appealing quality of Jost Amman's woodcuts of the animals undoubtedly contributed to its success - five reprintings in fifty years.

It has been suggested that Paul Hübner's earlier Charity tazza (part of the 1590 set) and the Raimund Laminit tazza (in the Waddesdon Bequest) are not only closely related to each other but in some details are also related to the woodcut in Jost Amman's ‘Kunstbüchlein’; however, the woodcut differs from the two tazze in too many fundamental ways for any direct connection to exist, despite the few minor similarities (Weber 1970, pp. 341-6, fig. 18). In the woodcut there is no child seated on the lap, but, more importantly, the figure of Charity is not seated in the simple frontal position; she is shown crossing her legs and adopting a contrapposto pose.

Equally significant are the very striking changes that the two Augsburg goldsmiths, Paul Hübner in 1590 and Raimund Laminit before his death in 1600, have introduced into their two versions. Laminit has created a far more noticeable child with a head that is strikingly large and a pose that is less recumbent. The dog created by Laminit is shown emerging from behind the figure group and pausing as it walks to the left, with its paw raised and head turned back, looking up at the child. Like similar dogs in some of Jost Amman's woodcuts in the ‘Kunstbüchlein’, this dog has the quality of a friendly, even devoted, animal - it even wears a collar with the initials S H engraved on it. By contrast, Paul Hübner on the 1590 tazza of Charity (in the Palazzo Pitti) has depicted the dog pissing in the foreground (to the left of the figure group), with its hindquarters facing the spectator and its left hind leg cocked. This detail appears to be taken from yet another unconnected woodcut included in Jost Amman's posthumous publication, the ‘Kunstbüchlein’ of 1599 (Weber 1970, p. 341, fig. 27). Finally, in 1590 Hübner provided a landscape that is totally different from Laminit's version and even includes a second child, depicted on the right picking a flower and walking towards the main figure group.

The Paul Hübner version was undoubtedly finished by 1590, if not before. The undated Raimund Laminit version has an almost identical main figure group, with only a few minor changes to the child. If Laminit was co-operating with Hübner, this close similarity seems to indicate that it predates 1590 - or, at least, 1594, when Hübner produced his second version, slavishly based on a woodcut by Jost Amman, in which the figure group is more Mannerist and more arresting. Indeed, it seems unlikely that after 1594 Laminit would have made his Charity tazza to form part of the Hübner set (now in the Waddesdon Bequest) and would have ignored Hübner's second and far more sophisticated Mannerist version of 1594. Why would he elect to copy the old-fashioned 1590 figure group, which is so out of harmony with the rest of the Mannerist figures in this Waddesdon Bequest set? This inconclusive evidence points towards an earlier dating for this Raimund Laminit tazza - if not for the entire London set.

If, therefore, the Laminit tazza can be convincingly dated c.1590 - or, at least, before 1594 - it might have been the first of a set of twelve that was never completed by Laminit. For some unknown reason, Hübner subsequently took over the commission and, although he retained the same border, he introduced the more up-to-date Mannerist figure-style.

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

Go to the Collection Online page for this object?