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Seated Athena Dish from the Hildesheim Silver Treasure

Seated Athena Dish from the Hildesheim Silver Treasure


Cybele

Cybele ( / ˈ s ɪ b əl iː / SIB-ə-lee [1] Phrygian: Matar Kubileya/Kubeleya "Kubileya/Kubeleya Mother", perhaps "Mountain Mother" [2] Lydian Kuvava Greek: Κυβέλη Kybele, Κυβήβη Kybebe, Κύβελις Kybelis) is an Anatolian mother goddess she may have a possible forerunner in the earliest neolithic at Çatalhöyük, where statues of plump women, sometimes sitting, have been found in excavations. Phrygia's only known goddess, she was probably its national deity. Greek colonists in Asia Minor adopted and adapted her Phrygian cult and spread it to mainland Greece and to the more distant western Greek colonies around the 6th century BC.

In Greece, Cybele met with a mixed reception. She became partially assimilated to aspects of the Earth-goddess Gaia, of her possibly Minoan equivalent Rhea, and of the harvest–mother goddess Demeter. Some city-states, notably Athens, evoked her as a protector, but her most celebrated Greek rites and processions show her as an essentially foreign, exotic mystery-goddess who arrives in a lion-drawn chariot to the accompaniment of wild music, wine, and a disorderly, ecstatic following. Uniquely in Greek religion, she had a eunuch mendicant priesthood. [3] Many of her Greek cults included rites to a divine Phrygian castrate shepherd-consort Attis, who was probably a Greek invention. In Greece, Cybele became associated with mountains, town and city walls, fertile nature, and wild animals, especially lions.

In Rome, Cybele became known as Magna Mater ("Great Mother"). The Roman state adopted and developed a particular form of her cult after the Sibylline oracle in 205 BC recommended her conscription as a key religious ally in Rome's second war against Carthage (218 to 201 BC). Roman mythographers reinvented her as a Trojan goddess, and thus an ancestral goddess of the Roman people by way of the Trojan prince Aeneas. As Rome eventually established hegemony over the Mediterranean world, Romanized forms of Cybele's cults spread throughout Rome's empire. Greek and Roman writers debated and disputed the meaning and morality of her cults and priesthoods, which remain controversial subjects in modern scholarship.


The Lampsacus Treasure was accidentally found in 1847 by farmers digging in a field near the village of Lapseki (ancient Lampsacus) in north-west Turkey. Dating to 6th and 7th centuries AD, the hoard of largely silver objects provides a significant catalogue of design and fashion from the early Byzantine period. Soon after its discovery, the bulk of the treasure came into the possession of Henry Richard Charles Wellesley, Earl of Cowley, who donated it to the British Museum in 1848. Two other institutions also have objects from the treasure: the Istanbul Archaeological Museum possess two bowls the Louvre a further two spoons.

The hoard includes a wide range of ecclesiastical objects that may have originally belonged to a church or a wealthy individual connected with the church. It includes a silver tripod lamp-stand with five imperial control stamps that date from the reign of Justinian I (527-65AD). In the British Museum there are also twelve pear-shaped spoons, six of which bear inscriptions and verse in Greek and/or Latin, a (slightly damaged) silver chalice, two silver dishes with nielloed monograms in the centre, an ornate silver polycandelon, part of a folding stool, and various jewellery and furniture/vessel fittings.


Sasanian art, an introduction

A rider pulls back the taut string of a bow with his right hand and aims an arrow towards two fleeing mountain rams with his left. The chase is fast the rams sprint forward with the rider’s horse galloping just behind their tails. The confident rider has already shot two mountain rams lying contorted underneath the horse’s hooves. This rider appears rather extraordinary. He does not wear practical sporting attire, but fluttering layers of clothes and ribbons, and a massive crown pulls the upper half of his curly hair into a bun resting in a crescent. A halo circling his head elevates him to a quasi-divine status. This gilded silver plate depicts an idealized portrait of a Sasanian Shahan Shah , or King of Kings, on a royal hunt.

Map of the Sasanian Empire (underlying map © Google)

Sasanian Art and Archaeology

A court artisan created this luxurious, handheld plate under the Sasanian Dynasty (224–651 C.E.). The Sasanians were the last pre-Islamic Iranian dynasty who ruled an expansive empire stretching across western and central Asia. The Sasanians called their empire Eranshahr, the Empire of the Iranians. Much of the material culture that survives is court art, that is, luxury objects and royal monuments created and used by the empire’s ruling and elite strata of society.

The owners of luxury items like the royal hunting plate, passed their possessions on through many hands, whether as heirlooms, gifts, or barter. Many Sasanian luxury goods traveled extensively across the Eurasian landmass, ultimately landing in locations that range from French church treasuries and Chinese burials to hoards sprinkled across present-day Russia. Monumental art and architecture remained in situ . Some cities and sites fell into disuse (like Bishapur), while others experienced later layers of development (like Takht-e Soleiman under the Mongol Ilkhanids). Medieval and premodern Islamic authors documented Sasanian sites as part of the region’s rich history. By the eighteenth century, European travelers also began to record Sasanian monuments alongside those of the earlier Arsacid (also called Parthian) and Achaemenid dynasties of Iran . This enthusiasm for rediscovering Iran’s past led to large-scale archaeological excavations in the twentieth century. Though most projects have focused on palatial sites, more recent campaigns have also eagerly turned towards the everyday lives of ordinary citizens of the empire.

This essay briefly introduces the Sasanian Empire through a handful of key monuments. It provides insight into how Sasanian rulers perceived their place in the world, and how they conveyed this understanding to both denizens within the empire and to those beyond its frontiers. It also illustrates how the Sasanians materialized their artistic values while simultaneously building bridges both with an Iranian past and with their contemporary neighbors of Rome, China, and Central Asia.

Google Maps Street View of Taq-e Kesra, Ctesiphon (present-day Al-Mada’in, Iraq)

Performing Kingship

A hallmark of royal Sasanian architecture is the ayvan (referred to as an iwan in the Arabic) , a vaulted space closed on three sides, and open on the fourth. Sasanian-era architects designed palatial complexes around a central ayvan that the Sasanian Shahan Shah utilized for courtly events and spectacles. At the Sasanian capital of Ctesiphon, on the Tigris River near present-day Baghdad, Iraq, stands perhaps the most famous ayvan , known as the Taq-e Kesra, the Arch of Khosrow. The ayvan is still the largest vault of unreinforced brick in the world, raising 35 meters in height and stretching over 25 meters in width.

Early Islamic historians and poets recorded how the Sasanians adorned the walls with molded stuccos, mosaics, and wall paintings, and covered the floors with carpets and cushions. Several authors furthermore described how the king positioned his throne in the center of the ayvan and suspended his ostentatiously embellished crown from the ceiling to support its massive weight. When hosting events, the king seated the empire’s elites according to rank. He symbolically reserved the three seats nearest to him for the leaders of neighboring Rome, China, and the Steppe . Thus the ayvan became a stage for performing a world political cosmology with the Sasanian King positioned at the center. After the fall of the Sasanian Empire, the ayvan would remain a distinctive feature of Iranian and greater Persianate architecture, composing mosques (like the Great Mosque of Isfahan) , madrasas (an Islamic school) , and caravansaries (a premodern inn for travelers and their animals) .

Monumental Image-Making

Alongside crafting extravagant spaces for politically charged performances, the Sasanian dynasty utilized the natural landscape to construct large rock reliefs that depicted divine investiture, triumph over foreign rulers, and royal family portraits. The Sasanian kings strategically selected locations on sacred waterways, roads that led in and out of the empire, as well as near other stone monuments built by bygone empires.

Google street view of Naqsh-e Rustam (present-day Fars Province, Iran)

The first Sasanian Shahan Shah , Ardashir I, commissioned one of his reliefs at the base of an escarpment known today as Naqsh-e Rustam, a site used as a royal necropolis by the earlier Achaemenid Dynasty. This relief illustrates the Zoroastrian god, Ohrmazd , who bestows Ardashir’s right to kingship.

Divine Investiture of Ardashir I (r. 224-242 C.E.), Sasanian Iran, 3rd century C.E., rock relief, in situ at Naqsh-e Rustam (present-day Fars Province, Iran photo: Fabienkhan, CC BY-SA 2.5)

The god represented in human form on the right is the highest god in the Zoroastrian pantheon, an ancient, indigenous Iranian religion. Ardashir, on the left, stretches out a hand to receive a divine ring from Ohrmazd. The king and god mirror one another: not only do they stand in an identical position and wear similar garments, but also they share a hierarchy of scale with the king’s crown that even rises above Ohrmazd. The relief furthermore illustrates Sasanian triumph over the earlier Arsacid Dynasty. The last Arsacid king lies trampled under the hooves of Ardashir’s horse. Under the hooves of Ohrmazd’s horse is Ahriman, an evil spirit and the primary opponent of Ohrmazd, according to Zoroastrian doctrines.

Drachm of Shapur I (r. 241–272 CE), Sasanian Iran, 3rd century C.E., silver, 26 mm diameter (© The Trustees of the British Museum)

Miniature Image-Making

In combination with site-specific monumental images, rulers fashioned imagery for coinage that they could circulate within the empire and beyond its frontier. Sasanian silver drachms (the main denomination of coinage under the Sasanians) typically featured a profile portrait of the ruler on the obverse (front of a coin) . A Zoroastrian fire altar flanked by two attendants occupied the reverse (back of a coin) . Rulers utilized coins to showcase their distinctive crowns. For example, Shapur I wears a crenelated crown lined with pearls and hair pulled up into a large bun on the top of his head. On the other hand, Boran wears a cap-like crown studded with jewels and topped with two wings and a crescent lifting the hair. Shapur I was the first to inscribe on coinage that he was not merely the King of Eran (Iran) but also Aneran (non-Iran). This message disseminated a cosmology that placed the Sasanian king at the center of the world.

Drachm of Boran (ruled c. 630), Sasanian Iran, 7th century C.E., silver, 29 mm diameter (© The Trustees of the British Museum)

Boran is particularly notable in the history of Iran. She was a female head of state who took the same title, Shahan Shah , as her male counterparts. Despite taking reign in a period of chaos, she was a sharp leader who constructed roadways and facilitated peace with Byzantium after nearly 30 years of war under her father, Khosrow II.

Sasanian coins were not only produced and utilized across the empire but also valuable currency far beyond its frontiers. Archaeologists have unearthed Sasanian coins across Eurasia, from Chinese tombs to Scandinavian hoards. Early Islamic dynasties furthermore used Sasanian coin imagery as a prototype until eventually transitioning to wholly calligraphic imagery.

Wine decanter with women dancing, Sasanian Iran, 6th to 7th century C.E., silver with mercury gilding, 34 cm high (The Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Feasting and Fighting

The Sasanians enjoyed dining and drinking together, a social event that is visible through ceramic, glass, and silver vessels. Elite circles handled silver cups, plates, and bowls on which artisans hammered and chased intricate designs. The imagery is often playful, representing animals, vegetation, and banqueting entertainment. One wine decanter depicts four women scantily draped in luxurious textiles under an arcade. Each dancer is unique, holding flowers, a bird, a mirror, and even a pitcher (also called an ewer) like that on which the artist created the image. The stylistic framing device of figures set beneath an arcade that rotates around the vessel is one shared with contemporary Byzantine silver—where it appears on sacred Christian liturgical vessels, for example on this Chalice from the Attarouthi Treasure.

Banquets featuring dancers, musicians, and acrobats were part of a court culture shared across early medieval Eurasia. This allowed foreign visitors, such as diplomats and merchants, to partake in other cultures’ festivities. Some silver vessels were created for festivities. However, others were less practical and served as courtly gifts, such as the hunting plate introduced at the beginning of this essay. In particular, hunting imagery added an extra dimension to the plate’s undeniable luxury and intrinsic value: imagery showcasing the king’s martial prowess was propagandistic but less overt than the rock reliefs of a king treading an opponent. This combination of spectacular celebrations and hunting feats, called bazm u razm in Persian, would occupy an essential place in the history and legends of the Sasanian Empire. The most famous epic, the Shahnama , or the Book of Kings, written by the poet Ferdowsi, would share tales of Sasanian kings for centuries to come.

A glimpse of the Sasanian Empire

These objects offer a glimpse into the visual construct of the Sasanian Empire. The Sasanians strategically fit themselves into a deep lineage of Iranian heritage while simultaneously building a dialogue with their neighbors. Furthermore, the Sasanian legacy would remain a vital foothold for many Persianate cultures to come.

Maria Brosius, The Persians: An Introduction ( New York: Routledge, 2006).

Matthew P. Canepa, The Two Eyes of the Earth: Art and Ritual of Kingship between Rome and Sasanian Iran ( Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009).

Blair Fowlkes-Childs, “The Sasanian Empire (224–651 A.D.),” in Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History (The Metropolitan Museum of Art).

Prudence Oliver Harper, “Art in Iran: Sasanian Art,” in Encyclopaedia Iranica .

Prudence Oliver Harper, In Search of a Cultural Identity: Monuments and Artifacts of the Sasanian Near East, 3rd to 7th Century A.D . (Bibliotheca Persica, 2006).

Dietrich Huff, “Architecture: Sasanian Period,” in Encyclopaedia Iranica .


1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Plate

PLATE. The word “plate” (connected with Gr. , flat, Late Lat. plata=lamina, and Span. plata, silver), in the sense to which it is restricted in the following article, is employed to denote works in silver or gold which belong to any class other than those of personal ornaments or coins. [1] As implying a thin sheet of metal, the term has come to be used in various technical connexions, and has been transferred by analogy to other materials (e.g. glass). A “plate,” as the common name for the table utensil (of whatever material), derives its usage partly from the metal prototype and partly from an etymological connexion with French plat, dish, Latin plattus, flat. (See also Pewter Sheffield Plate Metal-Work .)

On account of the ease with which gold can be worked and the pure state in which it is generally found, it is probable that this was the first metal used by man and it is certain that, in some countries at least, he attained to the most marvellous skill in its manipulation at a time when the other arts were in a very elementary condition. As an instance of this we may mention a sword of the bronze age, found in a barrow near Stonehenge, and placed in the museum at Devizes. [2] The hilt of this sword is covered with the most microscopically minute gold mosaic. A simple design is formed by fixing tesserae, or rather pins, of red and yellow gold into the wooden core of the handle. Incredible as it may appear, there are more than two thousand of these gold tesserae to the square inch. The use of silver appears to belong to a rather later period, probably because, though a widely spread metal in almost all parts of the world, it is usually found in a less pure state than gold, and requires some skill to smelt and refine it. Though both these precious metals were largely and skilfully used by prehistoric races, they were generally employed as personal ornaments or decorations for weapons. Except in Scandinavian countries, but little that can be called “plate” has been discovered in the early barrows of the prehistoric period in western Europe.

Ancient Egypt.—An enormous amount of the precious metals was annually brought as tribute to the Egyptian kings according to Diodorus, who quotes the authority of Hecataeus, the yearly produce of the royal gold and silver mines amounted to 32 millions of minae—that is, about 133 millions sterling of modern money. Though this estimate is probably an exaggeration, the amount must have been very great. The gold chiefly came from the Nubian mines in the western desert in the Wadi ‛Alāḳi and the neighbouring valleys. A map of these mines, dating from the time of Rameses II. (1300 B.C. ), has been preserved. Silver was not mined in Egypt itself, and came mostly from Asia Minor even at the earliest period. Then gold was comparatively common, silver a great rarity. Later, gold appears to have been relatively more abundant than silver, and the difference in value between them was very much less than it is now.

In the language of the hieroglyphs silver is called “white gold,” and gold is the generic name for money—unlike most languages, in which silver usually has this special meaning—a fact which points strongly to the priority of the use of gold, which archaeological discoveries have rendered very probable. Among the treasures of the “royal tombs” at Abydos, dating to the Ist and IInd Dynasties, much gold was found, but no silver. On the walls of one of the tombs at Beni Hassan there is an interesting representation of a gold- and silver-smith's workshop, showing the various processes employed—weighing, melting, or soldering with the glow-pipe, refining the metal, and polishing the almost finished bowl or vase. Owing to the Egyptian practice of burying with their dead personal ornaments and jewelry, rather than other possessions less intimately connected with the person of the deceased, but few specimens of either gold or silver plate have survived to our times, whereas the amount of gold jewelry that has been discovered is very large, and shows the highest degree of skill in working the precious metals. We can, however, form some notion of what the larger works, such as plates and vases in gold and silver, were like from the frequent representations of them in mural sculpture and paintings. In many cases they were extremely elaborate and fanciful in shape, formed with the bodies or heads of griffins, horses, and other animals real or imaginary. Others are simple and graceful in outline, enriched with delicate surface ornament of leaves, wave and guilloche patterns, hieroglyphs, or sacred animals. Fig. 1 shows a gold vase of the time of Tethmosis (Thothmes) III. (Dynasty XVIII., about 1500 B.C. ), taken from a wall painting in one of the tombs at Thebes. The figure on its side is the hieroglyph for “gold.” Others appear to have been very large and massive, with human figures in silver or gold supporting a great bowl or crater of the same metal. Vases of this type were, of course, manufactured in Egypt itself, but many of those represented in the Theban tombs were tribute, mostly of Phoenician workmanship. Already as early as the time of Tethmosis III., when, as we know, the Phoenician cities had already existed for centuries, we find the ships of Arvad, of Byblos and of Tyre well known in the harbours of the Delta, and even bringing tribute of foreign vases to the river quays of Thebes itself. We cannot doubt that much of the precious plate of gold and silver used by the Egyptians at this time and specifically described as foreign tribute was made in Egyptian or egyptizing style by Phoenician artists. But plate of really foreign type as well as origin was also brought to Egypt at this time by the Phoenician “Kefti ships” from Kefti, the island of Crete, where the “Minoan” culture of Cnossos and Phaestus was now at its apogee. Ambassadors from Kefti also brought gold and silver vases as presents for the Egyptian king, and on the walls of the tomb of Senmut, Queen Hatshepsut's architect, at Thebes, we see a Keftian carrying a vase of gold and silver which is the duplicate of an actual vase discovered at Cnossos by Dr Arthur Evans. The art of the “Minoan” and “Mycenaean” goldsmiths exercised considerable influence upon that of the Egyptians under the XXth Dynasty, about 1150 B.C. , we find depicted on the tomb of Rameses III. golden stirrup-vases (Bügelkannen) of the well known Mycenaean type, and in that of Imadua, an onicer of Rameses IX., golden vases imitating the ancient Cretan shape of the cups of Vaphio. In fact, it is more than probable that the Egyptians and Phoenicians manufactured plate of “Minoan” and “Mycenaean” types long after the ancient culture of Crete and the Aegean had come to an end. In the time of Rameses III., about 1300 B.C. , a clearly defined Asiatic influence appears in the decoration of some of the gold plate. A gold basket represented in the tomb of this king at Thebes, has on its side a relief of the sacred tree between two beasts, an Asiatic idea.

Fig . 1.—Gold Vase, from wall-paintings at Thebes.

The chief existing specimens of Egyptian plate are five silver phialae (bowls), found at the ancient Thmuis in the Delta, and now in the Cairo Museum (Nos. 482-486 in the catalogue). These are modelled in the form of a lotus blossom, most graceful in design, but are apparently not earlier than the 4th century B.C. Of the splendid toreutic art of a thousand years before, of which we gain an idea from the wall-paintings mentioned above, but few actual specimens have survived. The Louvre possesses a fine gold patera, 6½ in. across, with figures of fishes within a lotus border in repoussé work an inscription on the rim shows it to have belonged to Thutii, an officer of Tethmosis III. (Mém. soc. ant. de France, xxiv. 1858). Thutii's bowl is a typical specimen of the Egyptian plate of the XVIIIth Dynasty, and its design is precisely that of the hundreds of blue glazed faience bowls which were made at the time, and of which some perfect specimens and many fragments (especially from Deir el-Bahri) are in our museums. These were imitated from metal originals, just as most of the early Cretan pottery vessels were.

A splendid bronze bowl, which shows us what some of the finer gold and silver plate was like, was found in the tomb of Hetaai, a dignitary of the XVIIIth Dynasty, at Thebes a few years ago, and is now in the Cairo Museum (No. 3553 in von Bissing's catalogue). The engraved decoration, representing birds and animals in the papyrus-marshes, is very fine and evidently of native Egyptian work. The silver bowl at Berlin, said by di Cesnola to have come from Athienou in Cyprus, is certainly of XVIIIth Dynasty date, but, though purely Egyptian in style, more probably of Phoenician than Egyptian workmanship.

Fig . 2.—Silver Bowl, about 7 in. in diameter, found in a tomb in Cyprus, with repoussé reliefs of Egyptian and Assyrian style.

Assyrian and Phoenician Plate.—The art of making gold and silver plate, whether it originated in Egypt and passed thence to Crete or not, was evidently on its own ground in Egypt and in Minoan Crete. In Asia it was an exotic art, introduced from Egypt through the Phoenicians. In fact, it may be doubted whether any of the bronze imitations of plate found in Assyria are of Assyrian manufacture they are probably Phoenician imports. The British Museum possesses a fine collection of these bowls, mostly found in the palace at Nimrud, and so dating from the 9th and 8th centuries (reigns of Assur-nazir-pal to Sargon). Though they are made of bronze, and only occasionally ornamented with a few silver studs, they are evidently the production of artists who were accustomed to work in the precious metals, some of them in fact being almost identical in form and design with the silver phialae found at Curium and elsewhere in Cyprus. They are ornamented in a very delicate and minute manner, partly by incised lines, and partly by the repoussé process, finally completed by chasing. Their designs consist of a central geometrical pattern, with one or more concentric bands round it of figures of gods and men, with various animals and plants, such as antelopes amid papyri, which are derived from the Egyptian designs of the XVIIIth Dynasty. Often there is a strange admixture of Assyrian and Egyptian style. Bulls, for instance, are usually represented as with a single mighty horn, curving to the front (in the style of the ancient Babylonian seals), rather than with both horns showing, in Egyptian fashion. When figures of gods and men are shown, the principal groups are purely Assyrian imitations of Assyrian temple-reliefs, in fact-such as the sacred tree between the two attendant beasts, or the king engaged in combat and vanquishing a lion single-handed while mingled with these are figures and groups purely Egyptian in style, such as the hawk headed deity, or a king slaying a whole crowd of captives at one blow. Occasionally one sees traces of the ancient Mycenaean influence, or perhaps rather of the young Ionian art which had now arisen out of the ashes of that of Mycenae. These Phoenician imitative designs are still good imitations. But a century or so later we meet with them again on the silver bowls and dishes from Cyprus, in which the imitations have become bad. The same mixture of subjects was still in vogue, but confusion has been superadded to mixture, and we find kings in Assyrian robes and Egyptian wigs slaying Syrian dragons with Egyptian wings, and so on. Fig. 2 gives a silver dish from Curium containing examples of the above-mentioned subjects. It is a characteristic specimen of this mixed Phoenician art, of which di Cesnola seems to have collated a remarkable number of examples. In addition to the numerous silver phialae some were found, with similar decoration, made of pure gold. To the same period as these bowls from Cyprus belong the similar specimens of Phoenician plate from Etruscan graves at Praeneste and Cervetri in Italy. Those from the Regulini-Galassi tomb can hardly be earlier than the 6th century, so that this peculiar Mischkunst of the later type may well be dated to the 7th-5th centuries.

References —Von Bissing, “Metallgefasse,” Cairo Museum Catalogue (1901) “Eine Bronzeschale mykenischer Zeit,” Jahrb. Inst. (1898) L. P. di Cesnola, Cyprus Layard, Nineveh, &c. ( H. R. H. )

Prehistoric Greece: “Minoan” and “Mycenaean” Periods.—In the early history of the goldsmith's art no period is more important than that of the Greek Bronze age, the period of the prehistoric civilization which we call “Minoan” and “Mycenaean,” which antedated the classical civilization of Greece by many centuries, and was in fact contemporary and probably coeval with the ancient culture of Egypt. In Greece during this, her first, period of civilization, metal-work was extensively used, perhaps more extensively than it ever was in the history of later Greek art. So generally was metal used for vases that even as early as the “Middle Minoan” period of Cretan art (some 2000 years B.C. ) the pottery forms are obvious imitations of metal-work. The art of the metal-worker dominated and influenced that of the potter, a circumstance rarely noted in Egypt, where, in all probability, the toreutic art was never so much patronized as in Minoan Greece, although beautiful specimens of plate were produced by Egyptian and Phoenician artists. Also but few of these have come down to us, and we are forced to rely upon pictured representations for much of our knowledge of them. It is otherwise in early Greece. We possess in our museums unrivalled treasures of ancient toreutic art in the precious metals from Greece, which date from about 2500 to 1400 B.C. , and as far as mass and weight of gold are concerned are rivalled only by the Scythian finds. These are the well-known results of the excavations of Schliemann at Troy and Mycenae and of others elsewhere. They do not by any means suffer in point of additional interest from the fact that they were made and used by the most ancient Greeks, the men of the Heroic age, probably before the Greek language was spoken in Greece.


The most ancient of these “treasures” is that discovered by Schliemann in 1873 buried, apparently in the remains of a box, deep in the fortification wall of Hissarlik, the ancient Troy. It consists of vases and dishes of gold and silver, and of long tongue-shaped ingots of silver. In consonance with the early date (perhaps about 2500 B.C. ) to which they are probably to be assigned (Schliemann ascribes them to the second Trojan city) these objects are all of simple type, some of the vases being unornamented jugs with tubular suspension-handles on the sides. Here we have metal imitating stonework, as, later, pottery imitates metal. These are of silver. A unique form in gold is a boat-shaped cup with handles at the sides (Plate I., fig. 23), at Berlin, which weighs 600 grammes. One vase is of electrum (one part of silver to four of gold).

A treasure of much the same date (the second “Early Minoan” period, about 2500 B.C. or before) was discovered in May 1908 in graves on the island of Mochlos, off the coast of Crete, by R. B. Seager. This is, however, of funerary character, like part of the treasures discovered in the shaft-graves of Mycenae, and, while including diadems, golden flowers, olive branches, chains, and so forth, for the adornment of the dead, does not include much gold used by the deceased during life.

We speak of him as “Minoan,” because most of the metal objects found at Mycenae are, if not of actual Minoan workmanship and imported from Crete, at any rate designed in accordance with the Minoan taste of the “Great Palace Period” (Late Minoan i. and ii.) at Cnossus. They are only “Mycenaean” in the sense that they were found at Mycenae. Of the art of the gold vase maker in the Mycenaean period properly speaking (Late Minoan iii.) we obtain an idea from the pictures of golden Bügelkannen with incised designs of zigzags, &c., represented on the walls of the tomb of Rameses III. at Egyptian Thebes. The objects from the Mycenaean shaft-graves are much older than this, as are also those from the next treasure we shall mention, that from Aegina, now in the British Museum. The gold cups and other objects of this treasure, with their fine but simple decoration, are certainly to be ascribed to the best Minoan period, although when first published Dr A. J. Evans was inclined to assign them to so late a date as c. A.D. 800. They are surely some seven hundred years older, having no characteristic of the decadent “sub-Mycenaean” period, as Dr Evans would doubtless now agree. These objects were probably found in a tomb.

Dr Evans's excavations at Cnossus, those of the Italians at Phaestos and Hagia Triada and those of the British school at Palaikastro have not produced any very striking examples of the Minoan goldsmith's art in his own country, though splendid bronze bowls and vases have been found, which give us a good idea of what the plate must have been like, as do also the gilt steatite imitations of plate mentioned below. One of the bronze vases from Cnossus exactly resembles one of gold and silver which was brought to Egypt by the ambassadors in Queen Hatshepsut's time (fresco in the tomb of Senmut). But we possess a fine silver cup (of the Middle Minoan period) from the American excavations at Gournia, and two examples of the finest Minoan gold plate, which were discovered outside Crete, in the famous “Vaphio cups,” with their embossed representations of bull-netting, which have been illustrated so often as triumphs of ancient art (Plate I., figs. 24, 25). These are of Cretan workmanship, though found in Laconia, and are no doubt contemporary with the vases of black steatite with reliefs showing a harvest-home procession, gladiatorial combats, and a king receiving or bidding farewell to a warrior with his armed followers, which have been found by the Italians at Hagia Triada in Crete. These were originally overlaid with gold leaf, and are undoubtedly imitations in a cheap material of golden embossed vases of the same style as those found at Vaphio.

Next in order of time came the objects of gold and silver plate found by the expedition of the British Museum at Enkomi in Cyprus, which perhaps represent a somewhat later phase of Minoan art, but certainly cannot now any longer be regarded as belonging to the very late period to which they were at first assigned. One silver vase found at Enkomi is of the “Vaphio” shape, which first appears in Cretan pottery as early as the Middle Minoan period, contemporary with the XIIth Egyptian Dynasty (c. 2000 B.C. ), and even then is clearly an imitation of a metal original. Slightly modified, this type remained late in use, as we find it represented among other golden vases on the walls of the tomb of Imisib or Imadua, an Egyptian official of the time of Rameses IX. (c. 1100 B.C. ) at Thebes. But some, at least, of the Enkomi finds must be earlier than this.

The Egyptian representations of Minoan vases of gold and silver in the tomb of Senmut at Thebes (c. 1500 B.C. ) and of later Mycenaean golden Bügelkannen in that of Rameses III. (c. 1150 B.C. ) have been mentioned already. During the age of Mycenaean and sub-Mycenaean decadence the art of the Greek goldsmith necessarily passed through a period of eclipse, to arise again, with the other arts, in rich and luxurious Ionia probably. The Homeric poems preserved for later days a traditional echo of the glorious works of the metal-workers of the Heroic age.

References :—Troy and Mycenae: Schuchhardt, Schliemann's Excavations Tsountas-Manatt, The Mycenaean Age, passim. Vaphio: Tsountas-Manatt, Aigina A. J. Evans in Journ. Hell. Stud., xiii. 195-226. Cnossus: Evans, Ann. Sch. Ath. (1901-1907). Hagia Triada: Savignoni, Pernier and others, Rendiconti della R. Accademia dei Lincei (Rome, 1902-1906) Gournià: Mrs Boyd Hawes, Gournià, (Philadelphia, 1908), pl. c. Mochlos (unpublished). For Egyptian references see Hall, Ann. Sch. Ath. (1904), “Keftiu and the Peoples of the Sea” (1905) “The Keftiu-fresco in the Tomb of Senmut.” ( H. R. H. )

Etruscan Plate.—The Etruscans were specially renowned for their skill in working all the metals, and above all in their gold work. Large quantities of exquisite gold jewelry have been found in Etruscan tombs, including, in addition to smaller objects, sceptres, wreaths of olive, and plates decorated with filigree work and animal figures, which were used as personal ornaments (breastplates, girdles, diadems, &c.). In the Museo Kircheriano in Rome is a magnificent specimen of the last form of ornament it is covered with nearly a hundred little statuettes of lions arranged in parallel rows and the Vatican (Museo Gregoriano) possesses a very fine collection of similar objects from the “Regulini-Galassi” tomb at Caere. Little, however, that can be classed under the head of plate has yet been found.

Hellenic Plate.—The period of “geometrical” art which followed the Mycenaean age was one of decline in material prosperity and artistic skill. We possess some specimens of the work then produced in the precious metals in the gold diadems placed on the head of corpses interred at Athens (Archaeologische Zeitung, 1884, pls. viii., ix., cf. Athenische Mittheilungen, 1896, p. 367 and G. Perrot and C. Chipiez, Histoire de l'art dans l'antiquité, vii. 245). The period of Oriental influence is represented by the finds of gold ornaments made at Camirus in Rhodes (see Greek Art , fig. 11). Fig. 3 shows a silver cup, with gold mounts, also found at Camirus, apparently a work of the same early date. A remarkable find of gold objects was made in 1882 at Vettersfelde in Brandenburg the principal piece was a gold fish (see Greek Art , fig. 10) with ornaments in relief. These objects recall by their style early Ionic art, but were probably produced in one of the Black Sea colonies, since similar objects have been found, together with later work, in Crimean graves (see below), and exchanged for the amber of the Baltic coasts. Croesus especially encouraged the art, and paid enormous sums for silver vases and cups to the most renowned artists of his time, such as Glaucus and Theodorus the Samian.

Fig . 3.—Silver Cantharus from Rhodes, with gold mounts.

Fig . 4.—Archaic Gold Phiale, found at Agrigentum, now in the British Museum. It is shown in section below. It is 5 in. in diameter.

In the best times of Greek art the chief works in gold and silver seem to have been dedicated to religious purposes, and to have been seldom used for the ostentation of private individuals. Vessels for the use of the temples, tripods in gold or silver of the richest work, and statues of the gods were the chief objects on which the precious metals were lavished. [3]

Fig. 5.—Greek Silver Vase, 4th century B.C. , from South Russia.

The gold used by the Greeks probably came from Asia Minor or Egypt, while the mines of Laurium, in the mountains which form the promontory of Sunium in Attica, supplied an abundant amount of silver for many centuries. According to Pliny, Pheidias was the first sculptor who produced works of great merit in the precious metals he mentions a number of other Greek artists who were celebrated for this class of work, but does not give their dates. The chief of these were Mentor and Mys (both of the 5th century B.C. ), Acragas, Boethus, the sculptors Myron and Stratonicus, as well as the well-known Praxiteles and Scopas. In Pl1ny's time many works in gold and silver by these artists still existed in Rhodes and elsewhere. Among later workers he specially mentions Zopyrus, who made two silver cups, embossed with the scene of the judgment of Orestes by the Areopagite court, [4] and Pytheas, who made a bowl with reliefs of Ulysses and Diomedes carrying off the Palladium. Enormous prices were given by wealthy Romans for ancient silver plate made by distinguished Greek artists according to Pliny, the last-mentioned cup, which weighed 2 oz., was sold for 10,000 denarii (£350). It is worthy of note that a large number of the artists named by Pliny were natives of Asia Minor and it is very probable that the Asiatic school of silversmiths had at least as much influence on Roman caelatura as that of Alexandria, whose importance has been overrated by Schreiber.

Fig. 6.—Silver Crater, found in Ithaca. (3¾ in. high.)

The finest extant examples of Greek plate are those found in the tumuli of south Russia, especially in the neighbourhood of Kertch, the ancient Panticapaeum. Fig. 5 shows a silver vase found in 1862 at Nikopol in the tomb of a native Scythian prince. The native horse-tamers of the steppes are represented on the shoulder with wonderful naturalism, and the work is beyond doubt that of an Athenian artist of the 4th century B.C. Splendid examples of goldwork were found in the tumulus of Kuloba, about 6½ kilometres from Kertch, which was excavated in 1830 and found to be the burial-place of a Scythian prince and his wife. The jewelry and plate found in this tomb, which were clearly of Greek origin, comprised (amongst other objects) an electrum vase 13 cm. high, representing Scythians in their native costume, one of whom is extracting a neighbour's tooth, another binding up a wound, a third stringing a bow, besides several silver vases and two gold medallions with reproductions of the head of the Athena Parthenos of Pheidias. In these Crimean tombs are often found golden crowns in the form of oak leaves, some of which belong to late Roman times. The finest extant example of a gold wreath, however, is that discovered at Armento in south Italy and preserved in the Antiquarium at Munich it bears an inscription of the 4th century B.C. , showing that it was dedicated by a certain Kreithonios. In 1812 Dr Lee discovered at Ithaca a beautiful crater, 3¾ in. high (see fig. 6), and a phiale or patera, 9½ in. across, both of silver, repoussé and chased, with very rich and graceful patterns of leaves and flowers picked out with gilding. [5] These are probably not later than the 5th century B.C. Many silver mirror-cases, with repoussé figure-subjects in high relief, have been found at various places as, for instance, one with a beautiful seated figure of Aphrodite found at Tarentum and now in the British Museum. [6] The Victoria and Albert Museum contains an exquisite little silver vase, found in the baths of Apollo at Vicarello in Italy (fig. 7), enriched with a band in low relief of storks devouring serpents executed with gem-like minuteness and finish—probably not later than the 3rd century B.C. The British Museum has a little vase of similar form and almost equal beauty, though perhaps later in date it is decorated with bands of vine branches in a graceful flowing pattern, and is partly gilt.

Fig . 7.—Greek Silver Vase, 5 in. high, c. 3rd century B.C. The ornamental band is shown below in plano. (Victoria and Albert Museum.)

Graeco-Roman Plate.—During the last century of the Republic the growing luxury and ostentation of the wealthy Romans found expression in the collection of elaborate specimens of plate.

The works of the old Greek masters were the most highly prized, but contemporary artists, such as Pasiteles, also attained distinction in this branch of art. Amongst the numerous finds of silver plate made in modern times we may distinguish (a) temple treasures made of up of votive offerings, such as the treasure of Bernay in France (dep. Eure), discovered in 1830 and preserved in the Cabinet des Médailles, which belonged to the shrine of Mercurius Canetonnensis (b) private collections. The most famous of these are the Hildesheim treasure, in the Berlin Museum, discovered in 1869, which has been thought (without adequate reason) to have formed part of the campaigning equipment of a Roman military commander, and the Bosco Reale treasure, found in 1895 in a villa near Pompeii, whence its owner was endeavouring to remove it when buried by the eruption of Vesuvius. These collections contain pieces of various dates. The Bernay treasure, in part belonging to the 2nd century A.D. , contains oenochoai (ewers) with mythological subjects in relief inspired by classical Greek models—the theft of the Palladium was the subject of a famous cup of Pytheas, mentioned by Pliny—which must belong to the early imperial period. The Hildesheim treasure, again, contains two barbaric vases, without feet or handles, together with such fine pieces as the crater figured (fig. 8), whose decoration recalls that of the Ara Pacis Augustae (see Roman Art ), and a cylix with a seated figure of Athena in high relief, soldered on to the centre of the bowl, which appears to be of Greek workmanship. Such detachable figures were termed emblemata in the Bosco Reale treasure is a cup with such a bust, typifying the province of Africa. Great value was also set upon crustae, i.e. bands of repoussé work forming an outer covering to a smooth silver cup (cf. the Rothschild vases, Roman Art ). Such works commonly have Latin inscriptions incised on the foot giving the weight of the piece, the cup and emblema being weighed separately. The artistic value of Roman plate is discussed under Roman Art .

Fig . 8.—Silver Crater, 15½ in. high, from the Hildesheim find. (Berlin Museum.)

Among later specimens of Roman plate the most remarkable is the gold patera, nearly 10 in. in diameter, found at Rennes in 1777, and now in the Paris Bibliothèque—a work of the most marvellous delicacy and high finish—almost gem-like in its minuteness of detail. Though not earlier than about 210 A.D. , a slight clumsiness in the proportion of its embossed figures is the only visible sign of decadence. The outer rim is set with sixteen fine gold coins—aurei of various members of the Antonine family from Hadrian to Geta. The central emblema or medallion represents the drinking contest between Bacchus and Hercules, and round this medallion is a band of repoussé figures showing the triumphal procession of Bacchus after winning the contest. He sits triumphant in his leopard-drawn car, while Hercules is led along, helplessly intoxicated, supported by bacchanals. A long line of nymphs, fauns and satyrs complete the circular band.

Fig . 9.—Shield of Theodosius.

Late Roman plate is also represented by a series of large silver dishes, to which the name missorium is often, though perhaps wrongly, applied. These were used for presentations by emperors (whose portraits they sometimes bear) and distinguished officials. Three are preserved in the Cabinet des Médailles of the Bibliothèque Nationale at Paris—the “shield of Scipio,” found in the Rhone near Avignon, about 26 in. in diameter, with a relief representing the restoration of Briseis to Achilles [7] the, “shield of Hannibal,” [8] chiefly remarkable for its size (it is 72 cms. in diameter and weighs 10 kilogrammes) and a third, decorated with a group of Hercules and the Nemean lion. [9] Other well-known examples of this form of art are the “shield of Theodosius” at Madrid (fig. 9), which represents the emperor seated between Valentinian II. and Arcadius [10] the “shield of Valentinian” at Geneva [11] the “shield of Aspar” at Florence [12] and a fine dish found at Aquileia, now at Vienna. [13]

The British Museum contains some fine specimens of late Roman silver work, found on the Esquiline in 1793 (cf. Visconti, Una Supellettile d'argento, Rome, 1825 the objects are published and described in Mr Dalton's Catalogue of the Early Christian Antiquities in the British Museum, pp. 61 sqq., pls. xiii.-xx.). The most remarkable of these are: (i.) a silver casket decorated in repoussé, with the inscription SECONDE ET PROJECTA VIVATIS IN CRISTO, doubtless a wedding gift to a couple bearing the names of Secundus and Projecta, whose portraits appear in a medallion on the centre of the lid (ii.) four statuettes representing personified cities—Rome, Constantinople, Antioch and Alexandria (cf. P. Gardiner in J. H. S., 1888, ix. 77 sqq.). This treasure appears to belong in the main to the 5th century A.D. , though some minor pieces may be earlier.

Bibliography. —A general account will be found in Smith's Dictionary of Antiquities, 3rd ed., s.v. “Caelatura” (without illustrations), and in Daremberg and Saglio's Dictionnaire des antiquités, under the same heading (with several cuts). The passages in ancient writers which reier to the art will be found in Oberbeck's Antike Schriftquellen Nos. 2167-2205 Pliny's account is most conveniently studied in K. Jex-Blake and E. Sellers, The Elder Pliny's Chapters on the History of Art, pp. 2 sqq. The finds made in southern Russia were published in the Antiquités du Bosphore cimmérien (Sr Petersburg, 1854) the Comptes rendus de la commission impériale (St Petersburg, 1859 sqq.) and the Recueil des antiquités de la Scythie (1866-1873). The first of these works, which is very rare, has been republished on a reduced scale by M. Salomon Reinach, in his Bibliothèque des monuments figurés (Paris, 1892) with notes and all the more important objects are figured in Antiquités de la Russie méridionale, by Kondakoff, Tolstoy and Reinach (Paris, 1891-1892). For Graeco-Roman plate the most important works are Héron de Villefosse's publication of the Bosco Reale treasure in the Monuments Piot, vol. v. (cf. the articles by the same author and M. Thédenat on “Les Trésors de vaisselle d'argent trouvés en Gaule,” Gazette archéologique, 1883-1884) and Der hildesheimer Silberfund, by E. Pernice and F. Winter (Berlin, 1901). Reference should also be made to T. Schreiber, “Die alexandrinische Toreutik,” (Abhandlungen der sachs. Gesellsch. der Wissenschaften, 1894, vol. xiv.), whose theories are somewhat exaggerated and A. Odobescu, Le Trésor de Petrossa (1889-1900), which deals with a find of barbaric plate and jewelry made in Rumania, but gives much information on the history of the art. For early Greek work, see R. Schneider, “Goldtypen des griechischen Ostens,” Berichte der sachs. Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften (1891, p. 204), and A. Furtwangler, Der Goldfund von Vettersfelde (1883). For Etruscan metal-work, see J. Martha, L'Art étrusque, ch. xvii. An interesting popular account of ancient work in precious metals will be found in E. T. Cook's Popular Handbook to the Greek and Roman Antiquities in the British Museum, pp. 569 sqq.

Oriental, African Plate, &c.—Some very curious pieces of plate, both in gold and in silver, have been found in northern India in which country the goldsmith's art is of great antiquity [14] these appear to be of native workmanship, but the subjects with which they are embossed, and the modelling of the figures, show that they were produced under late Roman influence, or in some cases possibly even Greek influence in a highly degraded state, handed down from the time of Alexander's Indian conquests. A fine gold casket (Buddhist relic) said to date from about 50 B.C. is worthy of note. [15] In the British Museum are an Indian silver dish (3rd-4th century A.D. ) [16] and an earlier one, ascribed to c. A.D. 200.

Fig . 10.—Sassanian Gold Bottle, about 10 in. high. In the Vienna Museum.

Under the Sassanian kings of Persia (from the 3rd to 6th centuries) very massive and richly decorated gold vases, bowls, and bottles were made (fig. 10). Those which still exist show a curious mingling of ancient Assyrian art with that of Rome in its decline. Reliefs representing winged lions, or the sacred tree between its attendant beasts alternate with subjects from Roman mythology, such as the rape of Ganymede but all are treated alike with much originality, and in a highly decorative manner. A fine example of Persian work of the early 19th century (dated 1817) is the circular gold dish, richly enamelled, which is in the Victoria and Albert Museum, where a large collection of Oriental plate may be studied. Here may be seen a gold rose-water sprinkler of gold, entirely covered with richly enamelled flowers, Mogul work, 17th century fine Burmese gold work found in A.D. 1484-1485 in a Buddhist temple, Rangoon remarkable gold ornaments of the Burmese regalia and a large elephant howdah, from the Punjab, made of silver, parcel gilt, the top covered with silver plates of large repoussé foliage. Tibetan craftsmen work is represented by numerous vessels for sacred and domestic purposes, mostly of metal, partially mounted in silver, which display the skill of the Tibetans in the 19th century. Of the skill of the Hindus as goldsmiths, abundant evidence is afforded by the Ramayana and Mahābhārata, though very little of their ancient gold and silver work has survived. In India the people of the Cashmere valley have long been famous for their natural superiority as craftsmen, as was Lucknow for its utensils of gold and silver, much of it richly enamelled in the 18th and 19th centuries. Chanda in the Central Provinces was once celebrated for its skilled goldsmiths, and the plate of Cutch and Gujarat in the Bombay Presidency has enjoyed a well-deserved reputation. The uncontaminated indigenous designs of the Sind goldsmiths' work call for special notice. Indian plate, as is quite natural, has often been influenced by European designs: for instance, the beautiful gold and silver work of Cutch is Dutch in origin, while the ornate throne of wood covered with plates of gold, early 19th century, used by Ranjit Singh (at South Kensington) also displays European influence. Much of the Siamese decorative plate of the 18th and 19th centuries is of silver-gilt and nielloed. In the Rijks museum, Amsterdam, is a collection of silver dishes, boxes of gold and silver, jewelry, &c., all of excellent workmanship, from Lombok. African goldsmiths' work is represented in the British Museum by the gold ornaments from Ashanti, where there are also some gold ornaments from graves in Central America and Colombia. Ancient Abyssinian work can be studied at the Victoria and Albert Museum in the gold chalice, gold crown of the Abuna of Abyssinia, another more ornate crown of silver-gilt, a fine shield with silver-gilt filigree, and other objects.

The gold and silver work of Russia resembles in style that of Byzantium at an early period. Shrines and other magnificent pieces of plate in the treasury of the cathedral at Moscow (see Weltmann, Le Trésor de Moscou, 1861), though executed at the end of the 15th and 16th century, are similar in design to Byzantine work of the 11th or 12th century, and even since then but little change or development of style has taken place.

The caliphs of Bagdad, the sultans of Egypt, and other Moslem rulers were once famed for their rich stores of plate, which was probably of extreme beauty both in design and workmanship. Little or nothing of this Moslem plate now remains, and it is only possible to judge of its style and magnificence from the fine works in brass and other less valuable metals which have survived to our time.

Towards the end of the 10th century the Rhine valley became the centre of a school of goldsmiths, who produced splendid examples of their work—a mixture of Byzantine art with their own original designs. The book-covers, portable altars and other objects, preserved at Trier and Aix-la-Chapelle, are notable examples produced at that centre. The magnificent book-cover from Echternach, now at Gotha, is of the school of Trier.

Fig . 11.—Gold Ewer, 15 in. high, from the Petrossa treasure.

Early Medieval Plate.—The Gothic, Gaulish and other semi-barbarian peoples, who in the 6th century were masters of Spain, France and parts of central Europe, produced great quantities of work in the precious metals, especially gold, often of great magnificence of design and not without some skill in workmanship. The Merovingians encouraged the art of the goldsmith by spending immense sums of money on plate and jewelry, though only two examples of their great wealth in church vessels have survived—the gold chalice and paten of Gourdon, now at Paris. Fine examples of Carlovingian work, which was mainly wrought in the monasteries in the north of the Frankish dominions and on the Rhine, may be studied in the covers for the Gospels, in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris. In 1837 a large number of pieces of very massive gold plate were found at Petrossa in Rumania, much of this find was unfortunately broken up and melted, but a considerable portion was saved, and is now in the museum at Bucharest. These magnificent objects are all of solid gold, and consist of large dishes, vases, ewers, baskets of open work, and personal ornaments (fig. 11). Some of them show a strong Roman influence in their design, others are more purely barbaric in style. To the first of these classes belongs a very line phiale or patera, 10 in. in diameter. In the centre is a seated statuette of a goddess, holding a cup, while all round, in high relief, are standing figures of various male and female deities, purely Roman in style. Though the execution is somewhat clumsy, there is much reminiscence of classical grace in the attitudes and drapery of these figures. A large basket and other pieces, made of square bars of gold arranged so as to form an open pattern of stiff geometrical design, have nothing in common with the vessels in which Roman influence is apparent, and can hardly be the work of the same school of goldsmiths. [17] The date of this Petrossa treasure is supposed to be the 6th century. The celebrated Gourdon gold cup and tray now preserved in Paris belong to about the same date. They are very rich and magnificent, quite free from any survival of classic influence, and in style resemble the Merovingian gold work which was found in the tomb of Childeric I. The cup is 3 in. high, shaped like a miniature two-handled chalice, its companion oblong tray or plate has a large cross in high relief in the centre. They are elaborately ornamented with inlaid work of turquoises and garnets, and delicate filigree patterns in gold, soldered on.

In the 6th century Byzantium was the chief centre for the production of large and magnificent works in the precious metals. The religious fervour and the great wealth of Justinian and his successors filled the churches of Byzantium, not only with enormous quantities of gold and silver chalices, shrines, and other smaller pieces of ecclesiastical plate, but even large altars, with tall pillared baldacchini over them, fonts, massive candelabra, statues, and high screens, all made of the precious metals. The wealth and artistic splendour with which St Peter's in Rome and St Sophia in Constantinople were enriched is now almost inconceivable. To read the mere inventories of these treasures dazzles the imagination—such as that given in the Liber pontificalis of Anastasius Bibliothecarius, which includes the long list of treasures given by Constantine to St Peter's before he transferred his seat of empire to Byzantium (330), and the scarcely less wonderful list of gold and silver plate presented to the same basilica by Pope Symmachus (498-514). [18]

Some early Byzantine plate of the 6th century is in the British Museum an inscribed paten of the 10th and 11th centuries is in Halberstadt Cathedral in Germany, and numerous ecclesiastical vessels are in the Treasury of St Mark's, Venice.

Early in the medieval period France and other Western countries were but little behind Italy and Byzantium in their production of massive works, both secular and religious, in the precious metals. At this time every cathedral or abbey church in Germany, France and even England began to accumulate rich treasures of every kind in gold and silver, enriched with jewels and enamel but few specimens, however, still exist of the work of this early period. The most notable are Charlemagne's regalia [19] and other treasures at Aix-la-Chapelle, a few preserved at St Peter's in Rome, and the remarkable set of ecclesiastical utensils which still exist in the cathedral of Monza near Milan—the gift of Queen Theodelinda in the early part of the 7th century. [20] The treasure of Nagy-Szent-Miklos, consisting of several vessels of gold, of Hungarian origin (8th-9th century), is in the Imperial Museum at Vienna.

The existing examples of magnificent early work in the precious metals mostly belong to a somewhat later period. The chief are the gold and silver altar in Sant' Ambrogio at Milan, of the 9th century the “Pala d'Oro,” or gold retable, in St Mark's at Venice, begun in the 10th century the silver altar-front in St Domenico's Church at Palermo the shrine of silver-gilt (with later additions) in the church of St Simeon at Zara, Dalmatia, by Francesco di Antonio of Sesto near Milan, 1380 and the gold altar-frontal given by the emperor Henry II. and his wife Cunigunde, at the beginning of the 11th century, to the cathedral at Basel. The last is about 4 ft. high by 6 ft. long, repoussé in high relief, with figures of Christ, the three archangels, and St Benedict, standing under an arcade of round arches it is now in the Musée Cluny in Paris. [21] A similar gold frontal, of equal splendour, was that made for the archbishop of Sens in 999. This was melted down by Louis XV. in 1760, but fortunately a drawing of it was preserved, and is published by Du Sommerard (Album, 9th series, pl. xiii.). Reliquaries of great splendour were made of the precious metals, one of the most notable being that containing the skulls of the three kings in Cologne Cathedral. This shrine, which resembles in form a building of two storeys, was wrought in the 12th century. The covers of the Textus in the Victoria and Albert Museum are highly important examples of goldsmiths' work they are of gold and silver, decorated with enamel and set with stones, probably dating from the 12th century.

Celtic.-The skill in metal-working of the Celtic people in the British Islands, especially in Ireland, in Pagan and Christian times, is well known, and need hardly be emphasized here. While much has perished, much happily remains in proof of their extraordinary skill in working gold and silver, particularly in jewelry. The most remarkable specimen of their technical skill and artistic perception is the famous Ardagh chalice of the 9th-10th century (in the museum at Dublin) (Plate II., fig. 31), which is composed chiefly of silver, with enrichment's of gold and gilt bronze, and with exquisite enamels. The interlaced ornament is a feature of Celtic work, and may further be studied in the celebrated Tara brooch, with its seventy-six varieties of designs as well as in other exquisite examples of jewelry. Further evidence of Celtic skill is forthcoming in the shrines for the sacred bells in Ireland, not to mention other ecclesiastical ornaments. These are of great beauty, and the silver shrine of the bell of St Patrick (1091-1105) displays the interlaced scroll ornament in a striking degree. With the introduction of Gothic art into Britain the special characteristics of Christian Celtic art in Ireland gradually died out.

Anglo-Saxon.—Judged by the examples of Anglo-Saxon jewelry discovered, the Anglo-Saxon craftsmen brought their art to a high state of perfection, though hardly equal in merit to the Celtic. A large quantity of their metal-work is of bronze, frequently enriched with gold and enamel. Happily, there is preserved one priceless specimen of the goldsmith's art of this period—namely, the famous Alfred jewel of gold, now in the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford, with a portrait, believed to be of Alfred the Great, in cloisonné enamel. Another notable specimen is the Ethelwulf ring in the British Museum. Though ecclesiastical vessels, doubtless of the precious metals, appear in Anglo-Saxon illuminated manuscripts, the only piece of plate of that time at present known is the plain silver cup of the latter part of the 9th century, found with gold and silver jewelry and pennies at Trewhiddle in Cornwall, which is now in the British Museum. [22] There is, however, an important example of metalwork embellished with silver plates—namely, the portable altar of St Cuthbert at Durham.

A most valuable description of the various methods of work practised by gold- and silversmiths in the 11th and 12th centuries is given by the monk Theophilus in his Diversarum artium schedula (Hendrie's ed., 1847). He minutely describes every possible process that could be employed in making and ornamenting elaborate pieces of ecclesiastical plate—such as smelting, refining, hammering, chasing and repoussé work, soldering, casting (by the “cire perdue” process), wire-drawing, gilding with mercury amalgam, and the application of niello, enamel and gems.

The silversmith of those days, as in classical times, was not only a thorough artist with a complete sense of beauty and fitness in his work, but he was also a craftsman of the most varied fertility of resource, and made himself thoroughly responsible for every part of his work and every stage through which it passed—a most striking contrast to the modern subdivision of labour, and eagerness to produce a show of neatness without regard to real excellence of work, which is the curse of all 19th-century handicrafts, and one of the main reasons why our modern productions are in the main neither works of true art nor objects of real lasting utility.

Italian Plate.—Before the latter part of the 15th century, large pieces of silver work were made more for ecclesiastical use than for the gratification of private luxury. The great silver shrine in Orvieto Cathedral, made to contain the bloodstained corporal of the famous Bolsena miracle, is one of the chief of these. It is a very large and elaborate work in solid silver, made to imitate the west front of a cathedral, and decorated in the most sumptuous way with figures cast and chased in relief, and a wonderful series of miniature-like pictures embossed in low relief and covered with translucent enamels of various brilliant colours. This splendid piece of silver work was executed about 1338 by Ugolino da Siena, one of whose other works, a fine reliquary, is also at Orvieto. The other most important pieces of silver work in Italy are the frontal and retable of St James in the cathedral at Pistoia [23] and the altar of San Giovanni at Florence. On these two works were employed a whole series of the chief Tuscan artists of the 14th and 15th centuries, many of whom, though of great reputation in other branches of art, such as painting, sculpture on a large scale, and architecture, did not disdain to devote their utmost skill and years of labour, to work which we now as a rule consign to craftsmen of the very smallest capacity. The following celebrated artists were employed upon the altar at Florence: Antonio Pollaiuolo, Michelozzo, Verrocchio, as well as less prominent artificers, Betto Geri, Leonardo di Ser Giovanni and Betto di Francesco Betti.

Among the distinguished names of Florentines who during the space of one century only, the 15th, worked in gold and silver, the following may be given to suggest the high rank which this class of work took among the arts: Brunelleschi, Ghiberti, Donatello, Luca della Robbia, the two Pollaiuoli, Verrocchio, Michelozzo, Ghirlandaio, Botticelli, Lorenzo di Credi, Baccio Baldini and Francia. The cities of Italy which chiefly excelled in this religious and beautiful class of silver work during the 14th and 15th centuries were Florence, Siena, Arezzo, Pisa, Pistoia, Bologna, where there are fine 14th-century silver reliquaries executed by Jacopo Roseto da Bologna for the heads of St Dominic and St Petronio in the church of St Stefano, Perugia, where Paolo Vanni, Roscetto and others worked in the 14th and early 15th centuries, and Rome.

Owing to the demoralization and increase of luxury which grew in Italy with such startling rapidity during the early years of the 16th century, the wealth and artistic skill which in the previous centuries had been mainly devoted to religious objects were diverted into a different channel, and became for the most part absorbed in the production of magnificent pieces of plate—vases, ewers, dishes, and the like—of large size, and decorated in the most lavish way with the fanciful and over-luxuriant forms of ornament introduced by the already declining taste of the Renaissance. This demand created a new school of metalworkers, among whom Benvenuto Cellini (1500-1571) was perhaps the ablest and certainly the most prominent. His graphic autobiography makes him one of the foremost and most vivid figures of the wonderful 16th century, in which often the most bestial self-indulgence was mingled with the keenest enthusiasm for art. The large salt-cellar made for Francis I., now at Vienna, is the only piece of plate which can be definitely assigned to Cellini. The splendid Farnese casket, with crystal plaques engraved by Giovanni di Bernardi, in the Naples Museum, has been wrongly attributed to Cellini. His influence on the design of plate was very great, not only in Italy and France, but also in Germany. [24] During the 17th century fine pieces of plate were produced in Italy, many of them still retaining some of the grace and refinement of the earlier Renaissance.

Fig . 12.—Silver Beaker, decorated with open work, filled in with translucent enamels. German or Flemish, of the 15th century. (S. K. M.)

The papal treasure, containing priceless examples of the goldsmith's art, was almost entirely depleted by Pius VI. to pay the indemnity demanded by Napoleon. The tiara of Julius II. by Caradosso, and the splendid morse of Clement VII. by Benvenuto Cellini, coloured drawings of which are preserved in the Print Room, British Museum, are among the objects then destroyed.

A valuable source of study of Italian plate (now destroyed) is contained in the three volumes of drawings, executed between 1755 and 1764, by Grauenbroch, in the Museo Correr at Venice.

Germany.—From very early times Germany was specially famed for its works in the precious metals, mostly for ecclesiastical use. In the 15th century a large quantity of secular plate was produced of beautiful design and skilful workmanship. Tall covered cups on stems, modelled with a series of bosses something like a pineapple, beakers and tankards, enriched with Gothic cresting and foliage, are among the most important pieces of plate. During the 16th century Augsburg and Nuremberg, long celebrated for their silver work, developed a school of craftsmen whose splendid productions have often been ascribed to the great Cellini himself. In the first decade of the 16th century, Paul Müllner, a Nuremberg goldsmith, furnished Frederick the Wise with several silver-gilt reliquaries for his collection at Wittenberg. Later in the same century came the Jamnitzer family of Nuremberg, chief among them being Wentzel Jamnitzer, one of whose masterpieces, an enamelled silver centre-piece, belongs to the baroness James de Rothschild of Paris. Mathaeus Wallbaum of Augsburg was another celebrated goldsmith of the 16th century. His chief works are religious ornaments of ebony mounted in silver, and the Pommerscher Kunstschrank in the Kunstgewerbe Museum, Berlin. But the chief German goldsmith of the 16th century was Anton Eisenhoit [25] of Warburg, who wrought the fine crucifix (1589), the chalice and other ecclesiastical vessels which belong to the Fürstenberg family. Other notable craftsmen of this period were Hans Petzolt and Melchior Bayr, the latter having made the silver altar (with scenes from the Life of Christ after Dürer) for the king of Poland, which is in the Sigismund chapel in Cracow Cathedral. [26] Jakob Mores, the elder, of Hamburg, was employed by the royal house of Denmark. A large number of his original designs for plate are in the public art library at Berlin. Jakob Mores, the younger, executed the silver altar at Frederiksborg in the 17th century. In Germany the traditions of earlier Gothic art were less rapidly broken with, and many purely Gothic forms survived there till the end of the 16th century, and Gothic decorative features even later. In the first half of the 17th century, though the technical skill of the German silversmiths reached a high standard of merit, there was some falling off in the execution and in the purity of outline in their designs. Germany is richer in secular plate than any other country. The remarkable royal collections of plate in the green vaults at Dresden, Gotha and Munich, as well as public museums in Germany, including the treasure of Lüneburg at Berlin, afford excellent opportunities for the study of the German goldsmith's art, the remarkable chalice, 12th century, of St Gothard's church, Hildesheim the celebrated Kaiserbecher of Osnabrück of the 13th century the cup given by the emperor Frederick III. and Mathias Corvinus to Vienna in 1462, and the splendid ewer of Goslar, 1477, are notable specimens of early German work. In England the only public collections of German plate worthy of notice are the “Waddesdon” in the British Museum, and the Victoria and Albert Museum. Prior to its dispersal among his five daughters, the late baron Carl von Rothschild's collection at Frankfort-on-Main was the most extensive private collection in existence. The Gutmann collection, acquired by Mr J. Pierpont Morgan, contains many rare pieces, as does that of the baronesses Alphonse and Salomon de Rothschild in Paris. Many of the most beautiful vessels of crystal, agate, &c., formerly attributed to Italian artists, were carved and engraved and set in beautiful enamelled gold and silver mounts, in southern Germany in the 16th and 17th centuries. At the end of the 17th and the beginning of the 18th centuries household plate and other ornaments were frequently decorated with painted enamels, mostly originating from Augsburg. Dinglinger of Dresden and his school at about this time exercised considerable influence in the production of ornaments in pearl and other materials, elaborately carved, mounted and enamelled.

Fig . 13.—Silver Cup, 8¼ in. high, usually attributed to Jamnitzer, but more probably by Paul Flint. Made at Nuremberg about the middle of the 16th century. (S. K. M.)

Fig . 14.—Ewer by François Briot, about 10 in. high. Middle of 16th century.

Several specimens exist of the models of cups required of candidates for the rank of master-craftsmen in the second half of the 16th century. One of these, at the Victoria and Albert Museum, is believed to have been wrought by Martin Rehlein of Nuremberg in 1572-1573. [27]

Many of the famous 15th and 16th century artists—such as Martin Schön, Israel von Mecken, Aldegrever, Altdorfer, Brosamer, Peter Flötner, the Behams, Hopfer and Hans Holbein the younger, supplied the silversmiths with designs for plate. Several of Holbein's original designs, including one for the gold cup probably wrought by his friend, John of Antwerp, for Queen Jane Seymour, are in the Print Room, British Museum, where there is also an original design for a table fountain by the celebrated artist, Albrecht Dürer. Virgil Solis of Nuremberg (1514-1562) was especially fertile in designing plate, and he executed a large series of etchings of designs for vases, cups, ewers, tazze, &c. [28] Many of the German silver ewers and basins resemble those made in pewter at the end of the 16th century by François Briot and Gaspar Enderlein, who migrated from Switzerland to Germany.

Switzerland.-This country produced several silversmiths whose work in the main follows that of the German school. The three historical beakers in the national library at Zurich were made in that city from money sent out as gifts from England by the three English bishops, jewel of Salisbury, Horn of Winchester, and Parkhurst of Norwich, in appreciation of the hospitality afforded them during their exile at Zürich, in the reign of Queen Mary I. [29] Important plate was wrought at Berne, Rappersweil and other Swiss towns.

Russia.—In no country is the ecclesiastical and secular plate of greater interest than in Russia, where so many different influences have been at work in its designs and decoration-Byzantine, Oriental, Gothic, Renaissance, &c. The “golden age” of ecclesiastical art was undoubtedly the 17th century, when the churches and monasteries were being enriched with many priceless ornaments in the precious metals. Enamels of great richness—which had been introduced there by Hungarian artists—niello and precious stones were employed in the decoration A drinking-cup or bowl exclusively Russian in form and character, known as bratina, was largely made (see the fine one of gold, enamelled and set with precious stones, in the royal collection at Vienna), as was a smaller bowl, called czarka, with a single handle. Another secular vessel, peculiarly Russian, is the kovsh, a pointed or boat-shaped bowl with a long handle. Much of the domestic plate after Peter the Great's time was influenced by that of western countries, particularly Germany.

Poland.—Though not without a character of its own, the ecclesiastical plate of Poland [30] came under the influence both of Germany and Hungary. Many of the sacred vessels of late medieval times are decorated with enamels and niello. In the 17th century ecclesiastical vessels encrusted with corals are met with, such as those given by Michael Wisniowiecki, king of Poland, to the church of Czeustochowa. A magnificent 17th-century chalice of gold, beautifully enamelled, given by the bishop of Plock and Breslau, son of Sigismund III., is in Plock cathedral. Many important pieces of plate still exist in churches in Poland, though a Polish origin is not claimed for them for instance, the 10th-century chalice at Trzemeszno, where there is also another chalice of about the same period. The cathedral of Cracow contains many priceless examples, such as the 14th-century gold cross given by Casimir the Great the gold crucifix of Mathias Corvinus, and the gold reliquary, 16th century, of St Stanislas, bishop of Cracow.

France.—France, like England, has suffered grievous losses in its plate, though it can show a larger array of medieval church vessels than can England. The chief specimens of medieval plate are the 9th-century casket and the seated statuette of St Foy (10th century) in the treasure of Conques the cross of Laon (c. 1200) in the Louvre the ciborium (early 13th century) in the treasury of Sens the cross of the same period in Amiens Cathedral the caskets of St Taurin (c. 1250) the reliquary of St Epine, given by St Louis the virgin of the abbey of Roncevaux (Navarre, 14th century) and the virgin given by Queen Jeanne d'Evreux to St Denis in 1339. One of the most cherished possessions of the British Museum is the celebrated gold and enamel cup of the kings of England, French work of the 14th century. No doubt the visit to Paris of Cellini exercised a great influence in the goldsmith's art there, though, unfortunately, no examples have survived. The extravagances of Louis XIV. and his court led to the destruction of all the royal plate of France, as did the Revolution of 1789 of vast quantities of domestic plate. It was not until the early part of the 18th century that any signs of revival are visible in the art of the silversmith. Chief among the Paris goldsmiths of that time are Claude Ballin the younger, Thomas Germain, and, later in the century, François Thomas Germain, who made the royal plate of Portugal and several pieces for the court of Russia.

The Low Countries.—Flemish silversmiths of the late medieval period were as skilful as they were in the Renaissance. So little Flemish plate remains that pictures of the Flemish school are recommended as the chief sources of study of ecclesiastical vessels. A fine covered silver beaker, decorated with open work and translucent enamel in the South Kensington Museum, and another covered with figures and foliage in niello, in the print room of the British Museum, are notable examples of Flemish work of the 15th century. A large triptych, 13th century, is in the Rothschild bequest to the Louvre. Ornate rosewater ewers and basins, which came in with the Renaissance, such as the important pair dated 1535 in the Louvre, were made at Antwerp and other places.

The Utrecht silversmith, Paul van Vianen (early 17th century) wrought many fine pieces of plate, including the silver bas-reliefs in the Rijks Museum at Amsterdam, where there are five fine bas-reliefs in silver by the Belgian silversmith, Mathias Melin. Two other members of the same family, Adam and Christian van Vianen, were also prominent silversmiths of this time. An earlier Dutch silversmith, Christian van Vianen of Utrecht, made the vessels for the altar of St George's Chapel, Windsor, for Henry VIII.

Two important pieces of Dutch plate are the covered tazza-shaped cup of William the Silent, date about 1573, belonging to the earl of Yarborough, [31] and another large cup of the same form (1595), known as the “Breda cup,” in the possession of the Hohenlohe family. Considerable quantities of plate were produced at Amsterdam (where Johann Lutma the elder—d. 1669—was a well-known silversmith), Haarlem, the Hague and many other places The numerous 17th-century Dutch pictures of still-life and other subjects afford opportunities for the study of tazze, beakers and other domestic vessels in silver. Hendrik Janssens, a Dutch engraver of about 1640, executed many designs for goldsmiths and jewellers.

Spain and Portugal.—Spanish plate was largely influenced in the middle ages by that of France and Flanders and the art of the Moors. But little medieval plate exists in Spain, most of it having been destroyed at the time when a taste for more elaborate ornaments sprang up as a result of the introduction of fresh wealth from the colonies in the New World. The following examples may be singled out: a cross of wood, covered with gold filigree work, set with stones ( A.D. 808), in Oviedo Cathedral, where there is also a larger cross of wood and gold, dating from later in the same century. A Moorish casket of wood covered with thin silver plates is in Gerona Cathedral. The reliquary of Alphonso III. and his queen ( A.D. 866-896 covered with embossed silver plates of the symbols of the evangelists the 11th-century chalice at Silos chalices of the 13th and early 14th centuries in the cathedrals of Santiago and Toledo and Don Martin's great armchair, of wood covered with elaborate silver gilt plates, in Barcelona cathedral. The Spanish monstrances of the 15th century are noticeable because of the Flemish influence displayed, while those of the early part of the 16th century, such as that by the celebrated silversmith, Enrique Arfe, in the cathedral of Cordova, is remarkable for its ornate character. The latter's grandson, Juan de Arfe y Villafane (who wrote De varia conmensuracion, 1585, on silver work and other arts) became a chief maker of these magnificent monstrances for instance, the celebrated example in Seville cathedral. He was associated with Pacheco in executing statues. About the 15th century Barcelona became famed as a centre for the silversmith's art, and the Libros de pasantia, or silversmiths' examination books, still preserved in that city, contain a large number of designs for jewel-work. Seville likewise had an important gild of silversmiths, as did the following cities: Toledo, Valladolid, Burgos, Cordova and Salamanca. The celebrated family of Becerril wrought fine plate at Cuenca in the 16th century. Many chalices and some domestic plate of the 16th and early 17th centuries are embellished with small enamelled disks, some of which show Saracenic influence in details. The Victoria and Albert Museum possesses a fine collection of Spanish goldsmith's work.

Portuguese plate displays in its Gothic features a very florid style, in imitation of that adopted by architects in the reign of Don Manuel (1495-1521). A typical example of this extravagance of Gothic motives may be seen in the monstrance of Belem, which was made from gold brought from the East by Vasco da Gama.

Austria and Hungary.—Austrian plate is, like that of Switzerland, largely based on German models. The ecclesiastical plate of Hungary in the 15th and 16th centuries is celebrated for its enamelled work of a flowered design enclosed in filigree wire introduced from Italy. This enamelled decoration was continued in the 17th century, but without the filigree wire, and it is then described as “Transylvanian.” Much of the secular plate of the 16th and 17th centuries in north and east Hungary is influenced by German plate, while that in Transylvania is frequently inspired by Oriental designs.

English.—There is strong evidence of the importance attached to English medieval plate by Continental peoples, as there was to the magnificent English illuminated MSS., and, later, to the embroidered vestments, opus anglicanum. But, unfortunately, the ruthless destruction of plate during the Wars of the Roses, the Reformation and the Great Rebellion has spared but few medieval pieces to which we can point. Under the name of Protestantism every ecclesiastical vessel with a device savouring of “popish superstition” was instantly destroyed. The inventories of the great cathedrals and religious houses plainly reveal their marvellous wealth in gold and silver vessels.

Norfolk is richer than any other county in pre-Reformation chalices and patens. [32] The well-known “Gloucester” Candlestick, though composed of inferior metal, is an illustration of the fine plate wrought in England in the 12th century, while the ancient anointing spoon of the sovereigns of England at the Tower of London is an historical relic of the end of the 12th century (with the bowl altered for Charles II.). The earl of Carysfort is the fortunate possessor of a silver-gilt censer of about 1375 and an incense ship, of about 1400, found in Whittlesea Mere in 1850, and formerly belonging to Ramsey Abbey. [33] Only one pre-Reformation English gold chalice has survived, which with its paten and a silver crosier was given to Corpus Christi College, Oxford, by its founder, Bishop Foxe (Plate II., fig. 26). Both bear the London date-letter for 1507-1508. Another historical relic which has come down to the present day, though in a restored form, is the gold ampulla of about the end of the 14th century in the Tower of London. The universities of Oxford and Cambridge, though sadly depleted of their plate, can still show some notable pieces. The earliest example at each is a drinking horn, both of the 14th century, at Queen's College, Oxford, and Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. Other notable horns are the Pusey horn [34] the celebrated Bruce horn with the seals of John of Gaunt attached, and one at Christ's Hospital.

Fig . 15—Silver Cup, 4¾ in. high, with embossed gold band found in a grave in the east of Zealand (Denmark). This cup dates from the earlier part of the Iron Age.

Mazer bowls, made of wood mounted in silver and even in gold, and frequently engraved with scriptural and other inscriptions (see Plate II., fig. 28), were popular drinking vessels in England in medieval times. Many of these have survived, the earliest specimen being one of Edward II. at Harbledown hospital. They ceased to be made after the reign of Elizabeth (Archaeologia, i. 120). Medieval coco-nut cups, mounted in silver, are of frequent occurrence in England, the best known examples being in the possession of the colleges at Oxford and Cambridge and several of the city companies. As has been mentioned before, but few examples of early plate exist the following is a brief list of some of the most notable pieces, other than those previously enumerated: the “Sokborn” cup (c. 1450), and the “Anathema” cup (1481-1482) at Pembroke College, Cambridge the Leigh cup (1490) at Mercers' Hall the ivory and silver cup (1525-1526) of the duke of Norfolk the pastoral staff (c. 1367) at New College, Oxford the Richmond cup (c. 1510) at Armourers Hall, the “election cup” (c. 1520) at Winchester College and the Foundress' plate, consisting of a fine covered cup (1435-1440), two salts (c. 1500), a beaker and cover (1507-1508), and a salt (1507-1508) at Christ's College, Cambridge. Of Elizabeth's reign, the finest examples are probably the salt of the Vintners' Company (Plate II., fig. 27), and the rosewater dish and ewer of the duke of Rutland. Stoneware jugs, as the well-known example (1581) from West Malling, Kent, and Chinese porcelain vessels were elaborately mounted in Elizabethan times, a goodly proportion of the former having been done by goldsmiths at Exeter.

The Celtic races of both England and Ireland appear to have possessed great wealth in gold and silver, but especially the former. It seems, however, to have been mostly used in the manufacture of personal ornaments, such as torques, fibulae and the like. A magnificent suit of gold armour, repoussé with simple patterns of lines and dots, was found some years ago at Mold in Flintshire, and is now in the British Museum. [35] The amount of old jewelry found in Ireland during the past century has been enormous, but, owing to the unfortunate law of “treasure-trove,” by far the greater part was immediately melted down by the finders. Little of this period that can be called plate has been discovered in the British Isles—unlike Denmark and other Scandinavian countries, where the excavation of tombs has in many cases yielded rich results in the way of massive cups, bowls, ladles and horns of solid gold, mostly decorated with simple designs of spirals, concentric circles, or interlaced grotesques. Others are of silver, parcel-gilt, and some have figure subjects in low relief (fig. 15). In like manner, during the Saxon period, though gold and silver jewelry was common, yet little plate appears to have been made, with the exception of shrines, altar-frontals and vessels for ecclesiastical use, of which every important church in England must have possessed a magnificent stock. With regard to English secular plate, though but few early examples still exist, we know from various records, such as wills and inventories, that the 14th century was one in which every rich lord or burgher prided himself on his fine and massive collection of silver vessels on festive occasions this was displayed, not only on the dinner-table, but also on sideboards, arranged with tiers of steps, one above the other, so as to show off to advantage the weighty silver vases, flagons and dishes with which it was loaded. The central object on every rich man's table was the “nef”—a large silver casket, usually (as the name suggests) in the form of a ship, and arranged to contain the host's napkin, goblet, spoon and knife, with an assortment of spices and salt. No old English “nefs” are now known. Great sums were often spent on this large and elaborate piece of plate, e.g. one made for the duke of Anjou in the 14th century weighed 348 marks of gold. The English silversmiths of this period were highly skilled in their art, and produced objects of great beauty both in design and workmanship. One of the finest specimens of Edward III.'s plate which still exists is a silver cup belonging to the mayor and corporation of King's Lynn. It is graceful and chalice-like in form, skilfully chased, and decorated in a very rich and elaborate way with coloured translucent enamels (fig. 16) of ladies and youths, several with hawks on their wrists. Silver salt-cellars were among the most elaborate pieces of plate produced during the 15th century. Several colleges at Oxford and Cambridge still possess fine specimens of these (fig. 17) a favourite shape was a kind of hour-glass form richly ornamented, made between about 1480 and 1525.

Fig . 16.—Silver Cup, with translucent enamels. Probably English work of the 14th century.

Fig . 17.—Silver-gilt Salt-cellar, 14½ in. high. Given to New College, Oxford, in 1493.

Photo, Hills & Saunders, by permission of Corpus Cristi College.

Fig . 26—GOLD CHALICE AND PATEN OF BISHOP FOXE.

Photo, Southwark Photo Eng. Co.

Fig . 27—SALT OF THE VINTNERS' COMPANY (ELIZABETHAN).

By permission of Crichton Bros.

Fig . 28—BRAIKENBRIDGE MAZER BOWL.

From Jackson, History of English Plate, by permission of C. J. Jackson, F.S.A.

Fig . 29—GOLD CUP AND COVER, CHARLES II.

From Gardner, Old Silverwork, by permission of B. T. Batsford.

By permission of the Royal Irish Academy.


But few existing specimens of English plate are older than the beginning of the 15th century. Among the few that remain the principal are chalices—such as the two large silver-gilt ones found in the coffin of an archbishop of York, now used for holy communion in the cathedral, and a fine silver chalice from the church of Berwick St James, Wilts, now in the British Museum. Both this and the York chalices are devoid of ornament, and, judging from their shape, appear to be of the first half of the 13th century, which is the date of the fine medieval chalice and paten found near Dolgelly some years ago (the latter now believed in some quarters to be of German origin). Several Tudor cups are in existence: the celebrated one of 1521 (Plate II., fig. 30), an earlier one, 1500, two covered ones of about 1510 and 1512 at Sandwich and Wymeswold, respectively one (1515) at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, and the Bodkin cup (1525) of the Corporation of Portsmouth. A very early beaker (1496) is in a private collection, as is also a small Tudor bowl (1525-1526). The earliest known chalices of silver include the Gourdon chalice and paten, the St Gozlin chalice at Nancy (10th century) the 12th-century specimen in the abbey of Wilten in Tirol.

Fig . 18—Elizabethan Chalice.

It is interesting to note the various changes of form through which the ecclesiastical chalice passed from early Christian times Chalices. till the 16th century. It was at first an ordinary secular cup with two handles, classical in form and of large capacity, because the laity as well as the clergy received the wine. The double handles were of practical use in passing the cup round like a modern “loving cup.” The first alteration was the omission of the handles, so that it took the form of a large hemispherical bowl, with a round foot and a knop for security in holding it. For some centuries it, appears to have been the custom for the priest to hold the chalice, while the communicant sucked the wine through a silver tube or “fistula.” Some of the most magnificent early examples of this form of chalice have the bowl mounted in bands, set with jewels, and enriched with minute filigree work—a design which appears to have been taken from those cups, such as the four magnificent examples in the treasury of St Mark's at Venice, which have their bowl cut out of crystal, onyx or some other precious stone. [36] The finest examples of this class are the Ardagh chalice, now in the Dublin Museum, and the chalice of St Remigius, in Reims cathedral both are most magnificent specimens of the taste and skill of 10th to 11th century goldsmiths. In the 12th and 13th centuries the design becomes simpler there is a distinct shaft, extending above and below the knop, and on the foot is marked a cross, not found in the earlier ones, to show which side the priest is to hold towards himself at celebration. The next alteration in the form of chalice, which occurred in the 14th century, was to make the foot not circular in plan but polygonal or lobed, so that the cup might not roll when laid on its side to drain, after it had been rinsed out. This form lasted in most countries till about 1500, and in England till the Reformation. Then the bowl, which in the previous two or three centuries had been slowly reduced in size, owing to the gradually introduced practice of refusing the wine to the laity, was suddenly made more capacious, and the form was altered to the shape shown in fig. 18, in order that the Protestant “communion cup” might bear no resemblance to the old Catholic “massing chalice.” This was ordered to be done in 1562 (see Arch. Journ. xxv. 44-53). The best account of the evolution in the form of English medieval chalices and patens is by W. H. St John Hope and T. M. Fallow, in Archaeologia, vol. xliii.

Secular plate during the 15th and 16th centuries was frequently similar in style to that made in Germany, though the English silversmiths of the latter century never quite equalled the skill or artistic talent of the great Nuremberg and Augsburg silver-workers. In the 17th century, during the reigns of James I. and Charles I., many fine pieces of plate, especially tall cups and tankards, were made of very graceful form and decoration. The greater part of this, and all earlier plate, especially the fine collections belonging to the universities, were melted down during the Civil War. In Charles II.'s reign returning prosperity and the increase of luxury in England caused the production of many magnificent pieces of plate, often on a large scale, such as toilet services, wine-coolers, and even fire-dogs and other furniture. These are very florid in their ornament, much of it under Dutch influence, and mostly have lost the beautiful forms of the century before (fig. 19 and Plate II, fig. 29). In the early part of the 18th century the designs of English plate were to some extent influenced by the introduction of French ornaments by the large band of French silversmiths who sought refuge in England after the revocation of the edict of Nantes. Chief among these Frenchmen (though probably not a refugee himself) was Paul Lamerie, who produced a large number of notable specimens, the largest of which is a fine wine-cooler in the Winter Palace, St Petersburg. Through the greater part of the reign of George III. English plate is more remarkable for its plain solidity than for artistic merit. With the advent, however, of the talented architects, the brothers Adam, came a taste for plate with classical characteristics. The South Kensington Museum has a small, though fine, collection of plate, varying in date from 1770 to 1788, in the Adam style. Many of Flaxman's designs were produced in plate, among the most important being the “Shield of Achilles,” in silver-gilt, at Windsor Castle. Thomas Stothard, the painter, executed several designs for goldsmith's work for Rundell and Bridge.

Fig . 19.—Covered Cup of Solid Gold, 6 in. high, c. 1660-1670. Given to Exeter College, Oxford, by George Hall, Bishop of Chester.

Fig . 20—Silver Vase, 11 in. high, dated 1772. Designed by the brothers Adam.

The Assay of Gold and Silver Plate.—The primitive method of testing the purity of the metal was by marking a streak with it on the touchstone, and comparing the colour of the mark with that made by various pieces of gold or silver of known degrees of purity Assay by cupellation is now employed for silver: a piece of the silver to be tested is melted with some lead in a cupel or bone-ash crucible the lead is oxidized, and rapidly sinks into the bone-ash, carrying with it any other impurities which are present. The residue of pure silver is then weighed, and by its loss shows how much alloy it contained. Gold is now tested by an elaborate chemical process by which the trial bit is dissolved in acid, and then thrown down in the form of precipitate, which can be examined by a careful quantitative analysis (see Assaying ).

The standard of purity required in the time of Edward I. Was, for gold, that it should be of the “Paris touch,” i.e. 19 1 5 carats out of 24. Before then 22 carats was the standard. Silver was to be “of the sterling alloy,” viz. 11 oz. 2 dwt. to the pound. Except for a time during the 16th century this standard of silver has been kept up, and is still required by law.

Hall-marks on Silver.—In the 13th century the English Gild of Gold- and Silver-smiths had grown into great importance, and had acquired monopolies and many special privileges. In order to keep the standard up to the required purity the system of requiring each article to be stamped with certain marks was introduced by royal command. The first of these was the king's mark—a leopard's or lion's head crowned. This was introduced in 1300 by Edward I. (29 Edw. I. stat. 3, c. 30). The second, the maker's mark, was instituted in 1363 (37 Edw. III. c. 7). This might be any badge or initial chosen by the master silversmith himself. The third was the Year letter or assayer's mark this was an alphabet, one letter being used for a year, counting from the day of the annual election of the warden of the Goldsmiths' Company. When one alphabet was exhausted another with differently shaped letters was begun. The earliest existing piece of plate which has the three marks is the chalice (with paten, 1479–1480), at Nettlecombe, Somerset. Other marks, subsequently introduced, were the lion passant, first used in 1544 the lion's head erased and a full-length figure of Britannia, used only between 1697 and 1719–1720 and, lastly, the portrait of the reigning sovereign, which was used from 1784 to 1890, when the duty on gold and silver plate ceased. In addition to these general hall-marks, the plate made in various provincial towns had certain special assay and hall-marks.

The best work on hall-marked plate and the marks themselves, with the history of the Goldsmiths' Company, is C. J. Jackson's English Goldsmiths and their Marks (1905), where will be found illustrations of the marks found on plate wrought in Scotland and Ireland, and at English provincial gilds—York, Norwich, Exeter, Chester, Lincoln, Newcastle, Birmingham, Sheffield and other places. E. Alfred Jones's book, Old English Gold Plate (1907), illustrates and describes gold plate only.>>

Modern Plate in the East.—Though little plate of real artistic merit is now made in Europe, in the East among the Moslem and Hindu races there still survive some real taste in design and skill in execution. Delhi, Benares, Lucknow, Cutch and other places in India and Kashmir still produce a quantity of beautiful silver and gold work—chiefly ewers, basins, rose-water sprinklers, salvers, coffee-pots and the like. These are of graceful form, covered with rich repoussé work, or more often with very delicate chased patterns. Their style in the main is Moslem, but some combine an Arab form with native Indian surface decoration. This class of work is not a revival, but has been practised and handed down by unbroken tradition, and with little or no change in style from the 16th century or even earlier. [37] The silversmiths of Persia, Damascus and other Eastern places are still skilful, and retain some good tradition in their designs. They are, however, more occupied in the production of personal ornaments than in making larger works of silver or gold.

Authorities .—Scandinavian and Celtic Plate.—Worsaae, Primeval Antiquities of Denmark (1849) Afbildninger fra de Kongelige Museum (1854) “Industrial Arts of Denmark,” S.K.M. Handbook (1882) Atlas de l'archéologie du nord (1857) Anderson, Mindelblade fra de danske kongers Samling (1867) Danmarks, Norges, og Sverigs historie (1867) Madsen, Afbildninger af danske Oldsager (1868–1876) Montelius, Antiquités suédoises (1873–1875) Stralsund, Der Goldschmuck von Hiddensoe (1881) Hildebrand, “Industrial Arts of Scandinavia,” S.K.M. (1882) Reeves, Shrine of St Patrick's Bell (1850) Wilde, Catalogue of Antiquities of Gold, Royal Irish Academy (1862) Margaret Stokes, Early Christian Art in Ireland (1875) J. Romilly Allen, Celtic Art in Pagan and Christian Times (1904).

Danish.—C. Nyrop, Meddelelser ond dansk Guldesmedekunst (1884) Bernhard Olsen, De kjobenhavnske Guldsmedes Marker fra Tiden for Aaret, 1800 (1892).

Italian.—L. Caglieri, Compendio delle vite dei santi orefici ed argentieri (1727) Il Santuario delle reliquie ossia il tesoro della basilica di S. Antonio di Padova (1851) “Stanziamenti e contratti per opere di oreficeria (XIV.-XV. cent.),” Perugia: R. Commissione Giornale, i. 333, iii 206, 225 (1872–1874) Filangieri, Documenti per la storia, le arte e le industrie delle provincie napoletane (1883–1891) Antonio Pasini, Il Tesoro di San Marco, Venezia (2 vols., 1885–1886) “Orfevres et l'orfevrerie en Savoie,” Chambery: Soc. savoisienne mémoires, xxiv. 329 (1886) A. Guarneri, Esposizione di Palermo. Catalogo della collezione di antica oreficeria ed argenteria (1891) L. Fumi, Il Santuario del SS. Corporale nel duomo di Orvieto (1896) Congresso eucaristico ed esposizione di arte sacra antica in Orvieto (1897) Congresso eucaristico di Venezia (1898) A. Cocchi, Les Anciens reliquaires de Santa Marta del Fiore et de San Giovanni de Florence (1903), O. H. Giglioli, Pistoia, nelle sue opere d'arte (1904) Catalogo generale della mostra d'arte antica abruzzese in Chieti (1905) E. Manceri, Nottzie di Sicilia, arte viii. 388 (1905) P. Piccirilli, Oreficeria medievale aquilana: due cimeli nel Victoria and Albert Museum di Londra (1905) F. Ferrari, L'Oreficeria in Aquila (1906) S. J. A. Churchill, “The Goldsmiths of Rome under the Papal Authority,” with valuable bibliography, Papers of British School at Rome, vol. iv. (1907) Catalogo della mostra d'antica arte Umbra (Perugia, 1907) Corrado Ricci, Il Palazzo pubblico di Siena e la mostra d'antica arte senese.

Russian, &c.—A. P. Sonzoff, an illustrated book on some Russian plate (1857–1858) A. Maskell, Russian Art and Art Objects in Russia (1884) C. de Linas, Les Origines de l'orfèvrerie cloisonné Viollet-le-Duc, Art russe, Antiquities of the Russian Empire.

Austrian and Hungarian.—B. Czobor and I. Szalay, Die historischen Denkmäler Ungarns (1897–1901) E. Radisics and J. Szendrei, Treasure of Hungarian Art (Hung.) (Budapest, 1897–1901) J. Mihalik, “History of Goldsmiths' Work at Kassa” (Hung.), in vol. xxi of Archaeological Proceedings of Hungarian Academy (1899) “Zur Geschichte der Wiener Gold- und Silberschmiedekunst,” by E. Leisching, in Kunst und Kunsthandwerk, vii. 343 (1904) “Alt Troppauer Goldschmiedekunst,” by E. W. Braun, in Zeitschrift für Geschichte . . . oesterreichisch Schlesiens, i. 24 (1905) J. Hampel, Alterthümer des frühen Mittelalters in Ungarn (Brunswick, 1907) Katalog der Ausstellung von alt-oesterreichischen Goldschmiedearbeiten (Kaiser Franz Josef Museum in Troppau) A. Ilg, Wiener Schmiedewerk.

German, &c.—Manuscripts (W. Jamnitzer), “Ein gar kunstlicher und wolgezierter Schreibtisch sampt allerhant kunstlichen silbern und vergulten newerfunden Instrumenten” (1585), col. drawings Sibmacher, Entwürfe für Goldschmiede (1879) R. Bergau, Wentzel Jamnitzer (1880) Erzeugnisse der Silber-Schmiede Kunst aus dem 16 bis 18 Jahrh. (1883) Luthmer, Der Schatz des Freiherrn K. von Rothschild (2 vols., 1883–1885) Luthmer and Schuermann, Grossherzoglich-hessische Silberkammer (1884) C. A. von Drach, Ältere Silberarbeiten in den kgl. Sammlungen zu Cassel (1888) Marc Rosenberg, Der Goldschmiede Merkzeichen (1890) J. H. Hefner-Alteneck, Deutsche Goldschmiede-werke des 16. Jahrh. (1890) Marc Rosenberg, 17 Blatt aus dem grossherzoglich sächsischen Silberschatz im Schlosse zu Weimar (1891) Die Kunstkammer im grossherzoglichen Residenzschlosse zu Karlsruhe (1892) Siebzehn Blatt aus dem herzoglich Anhaltischen Silberschatz im Schlosse zu Dessau (1895) F. Sarre, Die berliner Goldschmiede Zunft (1895) P. Seidel, “Deux œuvres de Wenzel Jamnitzer,” Der Silber- und Goldschatz der Hohenzollern im kgl. Schlosse zu Berlin (1895) Gaz. des beaux arts, 3 S. xx. 221 (1898) Eugen von Nottbeck und W. Neumann, Geschichte u. Kunstdenkmäler der Stadt Reval (1899) Bernhard Olsen, De hamburgske Guldsmede Jakob Mores d. oeldres og d. yngres Arbejder for de danske Konger Frederik II. og Christian IV. (1903), (Die Arbeiten der hamburgischen Goldschmiede Jacob Mores, Vater und Sohn, für die dänischen Könige Frederick II. und Christian IV.) J. Sembritzki, Verzeichniss in Memel vorhandener, älterer Erzeugnisse der Edelschmiedekunst (1904) H. P. Mitchell, “Two works by Wentzel Jamnitzer,” Art Journal, p. 105 (1905) W. Neumann, Verzeichnis baltischer Goldschmiede, ihrer Merkzeichen und Werke (1905) E. Hintze, Die breslauer Goldschmiede (1906) E. Alfred Jones, “The gold and silver plate of W. D. von Raitenau, prince-archbishop of Salzburg, in the Pitti Palace,” Connoisseur, xviii. 20 (1907) “The Plate of the Emperor of Germany,” Connoisseur, nos. 51 and 54 Illustrated Catalogue of Early German Art (Burlington Fine Arts Club, 1908) Richard Graul, Leipziger Gold- und Silberschmiedearbeiten des Mittelalters (1908) A. Weiss, Das Handwerk der Goldschmiede zu Augsburg bis 1681 E. von Schauss, Die Schatzkammer des bayerischen Königshauses “Duke of Portland's Gold Cup,” Archeologia, lix. 233.

French, Burgundian, &c.—J. C. Delafosse, Nouvelle iconologie historique, fol. (1771) E. Aubert, Trésor de l'abbaye de Saint-Maurice d'Agaune (1872) Mely, Le Trésor de Chartres (1886) L. Palustre et X. Barbier de Montault, Le Trésor de Trèves (1886) J. D'Arbaumont et L. Marchant, Le Trésor de la Sainte-Chapelle de Dijon d'après ses anciens inventaires (1887) C. G. Bapst, Études sur l'orfèvrerie française au XVIII e siècle, le Germain, orfèvres-sculpteurs du Roy (1887) Album de l'exposition de l'art ancien au pays de Liége: orfèvrerie religieuse (1888) Catalogue raisonné des pièces d'orfèvrerie française composant la collection du marquis da Foz (à Lisbonne) (1889) L'Orfèvrerie française à la cour de Portugal au XVIII e siècle (1892) E. Müntz, Histoire de l'art pendant la Renaissance (1891) W. Cripps, Old French Plate (1893) H. Havard, Histoire de l'orfèvrerie française (1896) Inventaire de l'orfèvrerie et des joyaux de Louis I. (1903) E. Molmier, Un Monument d'orfèvrerie française du XIII e siècle, Soc. des antiq. de France, p. 477 (1904) F. Pasquier, “Objets précieux de la maison de Foix au quinzième siècle,” Sociétés des beaux arts, Mémoires (1904) L. de Farcy, “Croix de la Roche-Foulques,” Revue de l'art chrétien, p. 337 (1905) J. J. Marquet de Vasselot, Catalogue raisonné de la collection Martin Le Roy (1906) Histoire de l'art, ii. 988-999 (with bibliography), edited by André Michel (1907), &c. A. Lefranc, 50 planches d'ancienne orfèvrerie empire.

Low Countries.—Van Loon, Histoire métallique des Pays-Bas (Hague, 1732–1737) Schaepkens, Trésor de l'art ancien en Belgique (1846) Tentoonstellung Amsterdam (illustrations), (1877) for marks on Dutch plate, see Nederlandsche Kunstbode (1879) Exposition retrospective d'objets d'art en or et en argent, Amsterdam (1880) Roddaz, L'Art ancien à l'exposition nationale belge (1882) Leewarden-Provincial Friesch Genootschap (1902) Catalogue of the Exhibition at Bruges (1903) Catalogue of the Exhibition at Liége (1905) J. Helbig, L'Art Mosan.

Spanish.—Riano, Industrial Arts in Spain (1879) Davillier, L'Orfèvrerie en Espagne (1879) Museo español de antiguedades (1879) José Villaamil y Castro (on Spanish chalices), Boletin de la sociedad española de excursiones (April, 1893) El Tesoro de la catedral de Santiago H. P. Mitchell, Catalogue of the Silversmiths’ Work in the Wyndham Cook Art Collection (1905) L. Williams, Arts and Crafts of Older Spain (1907) Don Enrique de Leguina Baron de la Vega de Hoz, La Plata española Gestoso, Diccionario de artifices sevillanos.

American.—J. H. Buck, Old Plate (1903) American Silver (Boston, 1906) Colonial Silverware of the 17th and 18th centuries (1907) E. Alfred Jones, “Old American Silver Plate,” Connoisseur (December, 1908).

English.—H. Shaw, Dresses and Decorations of the Middle Ages (1843) Decorative Arts of the Middle Ages (1851) Bray, Life of Stothard (1851), Catalogue of the Antiquities and Works of Art exhibited at Ironmongers' Hall (1861) Catalogue of the Exhibition of Objects of Art, South Kensington (1862), W. Cripps, College and Corporation Plate (1881), Old English Plate (9th ed., 1906) R. S. Ferguson, The Old Church Plate of the Diocese of Carlisle (1882) Atkinson and Foster, Old Cambridge Plate (1883) W. A. Scott Robertson, Church Plate in Kent (1886) R. C. Hope, Church Plate in Rutland (1887) J. E. Nightingale, The Church Plate of Dorset (1889) The Church Plate of Wilts (1891) A. Trollope, The Church Plate of Leicestershire (1890) F. G. Hilton Price, Handbook of London Bankers, with some account of the Early Goldsmiths (1890–1891) H. D. Ellis, The Silver Plate of the Armourers' Company (1892) The Silver Plate of the Merchant Taylors' Company (1892) “The Plate of Christ's Hospital,” Trans. of the London and Middlesex Arch. Soc. (1902, new series, vol. i., pt. 4) Sir J. Watney, The Plate of the Mercers' Company (1892) Rev. T. Burns, Old Scottish Communion Plate (1892) J. Starkie Gardner, English Enamels (1894) Old Silver Work, chiefly English, 15th to 18th centuries (1902) “Charles II. Silver at Welbeck,” Burlington Mag. vol. vii. nos. 25 and 26 “Silver Plate of the Duke of Newcastle,” Burlington Mag. vol. viii. no. 32 “Silver Plate of the Duke of Rutland,” Burlington Mag. vols. viii. and ix. nos. 36 and 37 C. A. Markham, The Church Plate of the County of Northampton (1894) Handbook to Foreign Hallmarks (1898), E. H. Freshfield, The Communion Plate of the Churches in the City of London (1894) The Communion Plate of the County of London (1895) The Communion Plate of Middlesex (1897) The Communion Plate of Essex (1899) Sir W. Prideaux, Memorials of the Goldsmiths' Company (1896) L. Jewitt and W. H. St John Hope, The Corporation Plate, &c., of England and Wales (1895) W. Chaffers, Gilda Aurifabrorum (1896) Hall Marks on Gold and Silver Plate (1905) Cyril Davenport, The English Regalia (1897) Haslewood, Church Plate of Suffolk (1897) G. E. Halliday, Llandaff Church Plate (1901) A. Butler, “The Old English Silver of the Innholders' Company,” Connoisseur (1901), i. 236 “The Old English Silver of the Skinners' Company,” Connoisseur (1903), v. 201, vi. 33 Percy McQuoid, “The Plate of Winchester College,” Burlington Mag. (1903) ii. 149 “Evolution in English Plate,” Burlington Mag. (1903) i. 167, 359 The History of English Furniture (1904, &c.) Stanhope and Moffatt, The Church Plate of the County of Hereford, (1903) Guide to the Early Christian and Byzantine Antiquities, British Museum (1903) General Guide to the Art Collections (Gold and Silver), Science and Art Museum, Dublin (1903) Montague Howard, Old London Silver (1903) E. Radford, “The Church Plate of St Laurence Jewry,” Connoisseur (1904), viii. 72 H. F. N. Jourdain, History of the Mess Plate of the 88th Regiment (1904) T. M. Fallon, “Yorkshire Plate and Goldsmiths,” Journal of Arch. Inst. of Great Britain (1904), lxi. 74 J. T. Evans, The Church Plate of Pembrokeshire (1905) The Church Plate of Gloucestershire (1906) The Church Plate of Carmarthenshire (1908) C. H. Ashdown, Notes on the Corporation Plate and Insignia of the City of St Alban (1905) H. C. Casley, “An Ipswich Worker of Elizabethan Church Plate,” Suffolk Inst. of Arch. and Nat. Hist. (1905) vol. xii. pt. 2 F. Guy Laking, The Furniture of Windsor Castle (1905) H. C. Moffatt, Old Oxford Plate (1906) J. W. Caldicott, The Values of Old English Silver and Sheffield Plate (1906) E. Alfred Jones, “The Old Silver Sacramental Vessels of English Nonconformity,” Mag. of Fine Arts (1906), i. 280, 371 The Church Plate of the Diocese of Bangor (1906) The Old Church Plate of the Isle of Man (1907) The Old Silver Sacramental Vessels of Foreign Protestant Churches in England (1907) Old English Gold Plate (1907) Illustrated Catalogue of Leopold de Rothschild's Collectton of Plate (1907) Two Illustrated Catalogues of J. Pierpont Morgan's Collection of Plate (1907–1908) “Old Plate at the Dublin Exhibition, 1907,” Connoisseur (Dec. 1907) “English Plate at the Church Congress, Great Yarmouth,” Burlington Mag. vol. xii. no. 57 (Dec. 1907) The Old Plate at the Tower of London (1908) “The Civic Plate, Regalia, &c., of the Norfolk Boroughs,” Memorials of Old Norfolk (1908), The Old English Plate of the Czar of Russia (1909) The Old Plate of the Cambridge Colleges (1909), “Some Old Plate in the possession of Lord Mostyn,” Burlington Mag. “The Plate of Jesus College, Oxford,” Y Cymmrodor, vol. xvii. Guide to the Medieval Room, British Museum 1907) Nelson Dawson, Goldsmiths' and Silversmiths' Work (1907) T. S. Ball, Chester Church Plate (1908) R. H. Cocks, Concerning some Treasures of the Vintners' Company Hope and Fallow, “English Medieval Chalices and Patens,” Arch. Journal, xliii. 140 C. J. Jackson, “The Spoon and its History,” Archaeologia, vol. liii. G. R. French, “The Plate of the Vintners' Company,” London and Middlesex Arch. Soc. Trans. vol. iii. “The Plate of the Mercers Company,” London and Middlesex Arch. Soc. Trans. vol. iv. J. G. Nichols, “The Plate of the Stationers' Company,” London and Middlesex Arch. Soc. Trans. vol. ii., Article on “Drinking and other Horns,” in Chester Arch. Soc. Journal, new series, vol. xi. Somerset Arch. Soc. xlv. 2 Oxfordshire Arch. Soc. Proc. vols. xxvi., xxiv. Norfolk Archaeology.


Seated Athena Dish from the Hildesheim Silver Treasure - History

OLDER THAN DIRT.
Guaranteed Authentic.

Ancient Coins & Artifacts:

Mesopotamia is known as the 'Cradle of Western Civilization', and included the empires of Babylon, Sumer, and Assyria in ancient times. Its borders encompassed modern-day Iraq, southeastern Turkey and northeastern Syria. Its great empires were responsible for the origins of writing, urban planning, and agriculture, among many other accomplishments.

Sumerian and Mesopotamian artifacts are quite rare, and prized on the collector market. Because of this, countless destructive archaeological atrocities have been committed, including the pillaging of museums and looting of archaeological sites throughout the Middle East. This destruction must stop, and I hope that all of those ill-gotten artifacts find their way back to where they belong. Every single item I offer for sale here has been painstakingly authenticated and the legal origin of their source determined. These come from old private collections, museum deaccessions, and auctions with proven legal ownership outside their country of origin prior to 1970 and the UNESCO treaty. Enjoy!


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Jacob Schenauer became a master of the Augsburg guild in 1582 and died in 1608. Among his works, recorded by Helmut Seling (op. cit. vol. II, pls. 36 and 120), are the silver-gilt mounts of a magnificent twenty-five pipe organ, marked for 1590-1594, in the Reiche Chapel of the Rezidenz, Munich, and a silver-gilt covered cup with stem somewhat reminiscent of that of the present example. The latter dates from 1602-1606 and is in the Bavarian National museum (inv.no. 59/325).

Of particular relevance is a silver-gilt tazza by Schenauer of apparently identical design to the present example (Seling, op. cit. 975.0110e) in the Victoria & Albert Museum, London (inv. no. 533-1874). It is dated c.1580-c.1590 and the centre of the bowl is chased with Diana and Actaeon. Although the two tazzas are of very similar height, the diameter of the bowl of the Victoria & Albert Museum example is about 3 cm. larger. Underneath the museum example is a plaque engraved with a coat-of-arms and inscription ‘H.C.E.PF.ZV.AESH UND.H.STOLL’. It is interesting to note that both tazzas appear to have been re-gilt in the 19th Century and possibly appeared on the market at roughly the same time. The museum tazza came from the collection of Joseph Bond who died in 1886 while the present lot is frst recorded in 1897. There is a strong possibility that both tazzas were originally from a set, in varying sizes, featuring scenes from classical mythology.

The brilliant chasing of the central plaque of the Judgement of Paris has been described as demonstrating 'exceptional mastery of technique and is probably the work of a specialist' (J. Hayward, op. cit. p.379). It is clearly after a drawing for the plaquette of the Judgement of Paris which survives in the Staatliche Museen Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Kupferstichkabinett, Berlin (Inv. no. KdZ 2119). This drawing is signed 'P. . . V.V.N.' Theodor Hampe in 1916, K. Pechstein in 1979, H. Müller, (op. cit, p. 158, notes) and, most recently, H. Seling (op. cit.) suggest that the initials stand for Paul Vlindt Von Nürnberg.', i.e. Paul Flindt the Younger (1567-1630). However reservations have been expressed as his signature is normally P.V.N.

Paul Flindt II ( b. 1567) became a master of the Nuremberg guild in 1601 though his collected designs for silver were published from 1592 or 1593. The dating of the present tazza and presumably that of the Diana and Actaeon tazza in the Victoria and Albert Museum are based on Helmut Seling's Die Kunst der Augsburger Goldschmiede, 1529-1868 published in 1980, p. 18, no. 14. It should be noted however in his later work op.cit. that Seling shows the Augsburg pineapple town mark in a circle in use no later than 1586 though this may well be incorrect.

The Renaissance Tazza

In many cases tazzas were frequently commissioned in sets of at least half a dozen although the fifty-four that survive in the Palazzo Pitti in Florence are obviously quite exceptional (H. Seling, op. cit. vol. II, pls.199-205 etc.). Ordered by Wolf Dietrich von Raitenau, Archbishop of Salzburg (1587-1612), thirty-six by the Augsburg maker Paul Hübner were purchased in 1590 and a further eighteen, of which a dozen were also by Hübner and six probably by Kornelius Erb, were added four years later. The central plaques were chased with various scenes from the Old Testament and ones representing the twelve months, eight cardinal virtues and the four elements, etc. As with the present tazza, Haywood suggests that the chased scenes in the von Raitenau examples were in all probability by a specialist chaser working for a number of goldsmiths (op. cit., pp. 223-4).

Such sets not only served as magnificent display plate on a buffet but, of course, also had a functional purpose. A contemporary painting of ‘The Burghers of Bruges’ dated 1575, by the Flemish artist Antoon Claeissens (circa1536-1613), demonstrate how they could be used both to hold drink, in spite of their somewhat impractical form, and also as stands for fruit on the dining table.

A century or so ago this superb Renaissance tazza was part of the wonderful collection, or rather collections, formed by the German banker Eugen Gutmann (1840-1925). Apart from Old Master paintings, it included Renaissance jewellery, gold-mounted hardstone objects, bronzes, majolica, watches, miniatures and 18th century gold boxes- all areas pursued by the Rothschild families in Europe, Julius Wernher in England and J. Pierpont Morgan in America among others. However, it was in the field of European and particularly German Renaissance silver that the Gutmann collection truly excelled.

Other pieces from the Gutmann silver collection that have appeared on the market include the very beautiful silver-gilt ewer in the form of a nude nereid seated on a triton by Johannes Lencker I, Augsburg, 1625-30, an important gothic-style double cup by Hans Petzolt, Nuremberg, dated 1596 and an exceptional parcel-gilt cup in the form of a nude male rider on a rearing stallion by Hans Ludwig Kienlin, Ulm, dated 1630. These were sold by Christie’s London (11 June 2003, lots 161-163) and are now in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, the Detroit Institute of Arts and the Chicago Art Institute respectively. Also formerly in the Gutmann Collection was a very rare pair of silver globe cups by Abraham Drentwett, Augsburg, 1695-1699 (Christie’s Paris, 13 April 2010, lot 98) now in a private collection.

The history of the Gutmann collection is discussed by Anne Webber in her article, The Gutmann Collection in the Christie’s London catalogue (op. cit., pp. 142-147). A more detailed and recent account of the family history is given by Simon Goodman, The Orpheus Clock: The Search for my Familys Art Treasures Stolen by the Nazis, Simon and Schuster, 2015.

The German 16th and 17th Century silver pieces mentioned above together with the present tazza, are unquestionably among the most important such items to appear at auction this century. They alone firmly establish Eugen Gutmann as one of the greatest collectors of German Renaissance and Baroque silver. With museum quality objects on virtually every page the catalogue of the seventy works of art, which comprise the collection, is astonishing. In his introduction to the Art Collection Eugen Gutmann published in 1912, the distinguished art historian Otto von Falke wrote of the Renaissance jewellery and European silver that the list of its makers, ‘the breadth of scope and multiplicity of form, makes (the collection) worthy to rank beside the treasure-chambers of princes.’

Baron Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza

The Judgement of Paris tazza was subsequently acquired by Gutmann’s fellow collector Baron Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza(1875-1947) and inherited by his son Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza (1921-2002). Their collections, formed from the 1920s onwards, were as equally wide-ranging as the Gutmann Collection. Whilst best known for Old Master paintings, the European silver, gold boxes, Renaissance jewellery and Faberge were of considerable importance. The silver collection is broader than that of Gutmann covering work from England, France, Hungary and the Netherlands as well as Germany and ranging in date from the 16th to the early 19th centuries.

The silver was catalogued by Hannelore Müller in 1986 (op. cit.) while Anna Somers Cocks’ and Charles Truman’s The Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection-Renaissance jewels, gold boxes and objets de vertu was published two years earlier.

The acquisition of the Schenauer tazza by two of the greatest collectors in the last century of German Renaissance silver testifies to its importance, beauty and refinement.


Some collectibles have significant historical value to the collector. Items from World War II, for example, remain popular among those interested in buying a piece of history. You can also browse World War I memorabilia ranging from vintage uniforms to medals to capture a moment even further back in time.

The world of advertising is rich with a history of collectible memorabilia. Of course, there are Coca-Cola collectibles, but they aren’t the only soda advertising collectibles around. Scan through eBay’s advertising memorabilia section ranging from gas and oil memorabilia to nostalgia from the tech industry to get an idea of the vast array of what’s available among eBay’s collectible stores.


The François Tomb

The François Tomb is chock-full of elaborate frescoes with complicated messages we may never fully understand.

The archeological site of the ancient Etruscan city of Vulci, Italy (photo: Robin Iversen Rönnlund, CC BY-SA 3.0)

When Alessandro François and Adolphe Noël des Vergers entered the so-called François Tomb (named for its discoverer) in 1857, they described a magnificent treasure trove in which ancient Etruscan warriors were sleeping on their funeral couches, surrounded by grave goods, armaments, and brilliant tableaux on painted walls. This exceptional tomb from the Ponte Rotto necropolis in Vulci served as a familial burial monument and was used for several centuries in the Hellenistic period .

Plan of the François Tomb, Vulci

The Etruscans believed that the afterlife mirrored their own world, so they provided elaborate “homes” for their dead. The ground plan of the François Tomb is essentially a T shape, with two main chambers (called the atrium and tablinum after the rooms of typical Italo-Roman houses). The main chambers are arranged perpendicularly, with small burial chambers branching out from all sides.

The François Tomb is famous largely because of the frescoes of its main chamber, which can be dated to the fourth century B.C.E. Unlike most Etruscan tomb paintings, the François tomb frescoes seem to include battle scenes — making it a rare, early example of ancient history painting.

Though scholars still have many questions surrounding the exact meanings of these paintings, they reflect important Etruscan ideas about history, and they would have helped reinforce shared narratives about ancestry and the past as family members continually visited the tomb to inter the newly deceased.

Dazzling frescoes

Frescoes fill the walls and ceiling of the tomb. (The original frescoes were removed by a collector in the 19th century, and replaced in the tomb itself by reproductions.) The ceiling is designed to look like the interior of a building with a timber-framed roof structure, while the walls include various figural representations and geometric designs.

Frieze with Greek key pattern and hunting scene, atrium of the François Tomb, Vulci (Villa Albani, Rome)

Portrait of Vel Saties, atrium of the François Tomb, Vulci (Villa Albani, Rome)

The atrium , which was the first room a visitor would enter, has the most elaborate frescoes. At the upper margin of the wall, there is a small running frieze in two registers : a Greek key pattern on top, with a hunting scene below. Under the hunting scene are larger scenes featuring human figures depicted at nearly life size.

Although one wall was badly damaged, most of the figures are well-preserved and labeled with text. From this text we know that these figures include a mix of mythological characters (including Sisyphus, Eteocles and Polynices killing each other, and Ajax raping Cassandra) and historical figures, including the founder of the tomb, an Etruscan aristocrat named Vel Saties. This full-length portrait of Vel Saties wearing a toga picta has garnered acclaim as the first such portrait in western art. [1] It is likely that the lowest quarter of the wall was obscured by stone benches, although not all of these benches have been preserved.

Scenes from mythology and history

The tablinum , or rear room of the tomb, also has benches at the bottom, a fresco representing a running meander at the top, and a scene featuring human figures in between. There are a few differences in the iconography that clearly separate the atrium and tablinum . First, the tablinum does not have a hunting scene below the meander second, the ceiling patterns are different and finally, the figural fresco is made up of two narrative scenes, each with labeled characters.

Achilles sacrificing Trojan prisoners to the shade of Patroclus, tablinum of the François Tomb, Vulci (Villa Albani, Rome)

On the left-hand side of the tomb, there is a scene of Achilles sacrificing Trojan prisoners to the shade of Patroclus .

T he right-hand side of the tomb shows a battle between two groups of Etruscans. It is this battle scene that has drawn the majority of historical attention. The figures are arranged into a series of dueling pairs on the long wall. Inscriptions identify the men on both sides as Etruscan, but only the figures who appear to be losing are identified with a specific city. This discrepancy has led scholars to believe that the winners are from Vulci. Because many of the dying men are only partially clothed, this scene has been interpreted as a nocturnal ambush: surprised in their sleep, the defeated figures were apparently not able to fully dress before the fighting started.

Battle scene, tablinum of the François Tomb, Vulci (Villa Albani, Rome)

A link between text and image

Mastarna freeing Caelius Vibenna, tablinum of the François Tomb, Vulci (Villa Albani, Rome)

Rounding the corner of the fresco is a scene derived from Rome’s legendary history. Mastarna (perhaps an alternate name for Servius Tullius, the legendary sixth king of Rome) frees Caelius Vibenna, an Etruscan aristocrat who aided Rome’s founder Romulus in his wars against Titus Tatius . Although these two men are portrayed nude (in the manner of mythological figures) there is some evidence that both were considered historical figures.

These paintings represent an important potential link between ancient visual and textual sources. The Roman emperor Claudius claimed in a speech that Mastarna was the Etruscan name of Rome’s sixth king, Servius Tullius, who was a friend of Caelius Vibenna ( ILS 212). This is very similar to what is portrayed in the frescoes in the François tomb, and so the tomb’s iconography seems to provide independent confirmation of Claudius’ account.

Many scholars interpret the tomb’s iconography as being pro-Etruscan and anti-Roman. Since the Roman state made substantial territorial conquests in Etruria during the fourth century B.C.E., when the tomb was founded, the deployment of the iconography of Caelius Vibenna and Mastarna could have been a symbol of cultural pride among the Etruscans.

Camillus slaying Gaius Tarquinius, atrium of the Francois Tomb, Vulci (Villa Albani, Rome)

Unanswered questions

Despite widespread agreement about the fresco of Mastarna and Caelius Vibenna, questions remain about the meaning of many of the other frescoes in the Franç ois tomb.

The atrium fresco depicts Camillus killing a figure identified as “Gaius Tarquinius of Rome.”

While both Camillus and Tarquinius are figures from early Roman history, their presence in the painting is not clearly understood. The name Tarquinius may refer to either of two male Tarquin rulers (or Tarquinii) from early Roman history however, their first names were not Gaius, but Lucius, and neither of these men was killed by Camillus. Both Tarquinii lived around the time of Mastarna in the 6th century B.C.E., whereas Roman authors believed that Camillus lived about a century later, closer in time to the date of the tomb’s construction. To further complicate things, according to Roman tradition, Camillus was famous for defeating Etruscans. His presence in the tomb and his killing of Tarquinius are thus both mysterious.

Scholarly opinion is also divided on the relationship between the Camillus/Tarquinius fresco and the other historical fresco. Many scholars see them as part of the same narrative others, however, argue that the two must be kept separate. This debate is unlikely to be resolved unless new evidence is discovered.

Mysteries remain

The François Tomb is rightly celebrated for its elaborate decor. Although we cannot fully understand the choices made by the tomb’s patron, it seems likely that the frescoes were created to deliver a specific message. This message may have been political (pro-Etruscan/anti-Roman), religious (since most scenes focus on bloodshed), familial (portraying the family history of the owners), or ethical (illustrating moral qualities that were important to the owners). All of these interpretations have been suggested, and it is possible that all of them are correct—that is, that the owner of the tomb had all of these aspects in mind when choosing the iconography. It is the historical fresco, however, that has captured the most interest, as it seems to preserve rare information about Etruscan historical thought.

We may never know the answers to many of these questions, but the François Tomb remains a shining example of Etruscan fresco painting that offers us a glimpse into the tumultuous history of the ancient Mediterranean world.

[1] See Lisa C. Pieraccini, “Etruscan Wall Painting: Insights, Innovations, and Legacy” in Sinclair Bell and Alexandra A. Carpino, A Companion to the Etruscans (John Wiley & Sons, 2016), p. 256.

B. Andreae, “Die Tomba François. Anspruch und historische Wirklichkeit eines etruskischen Familiengrabes.” In B. Andreae, A. Hoffman, C. Weder-Lehman (eds.), Die Etrusker: Luxus für das Jenseits. (Munich: Hirmer, 2004), pp. 176-207.

L. Bonfante Warren,“Roman Triumphs and Etruscan Kings.” The Journal of Roman Studies 60 (1970), pp. 49-66.

F. Buranelli and S. Buranelli, La Tomba François di Vulci . (Rome: Quasar, 1987).

F. Coarelli, F. “ Le pitture della tomba François a Vulci : una proposta di lettura.” Dialoghi di Archeologia 3 (1983), pp. 43-69.

T. J. Cornell, The Beginnings of Rome (London: Routledge, 1995), pp. 135-141.

M. Cristofani, “Ricerche sulle pitture della tomba François di Vulci. I fregi decorativi,” Dialoghi di Archeologia 1 (1967), pp. 189-219.

N. T. de Grummond, Etruscan Myth, Sacred History, and Legend. (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Museum, 2006), pp. 175-180, 197-199.

Jean Gagé, “De Tarquinies à Vulci : Les guerres entre Rome et Tarquinies au IVe siècle avant J.-C. et les fresques de la « Tombe François »” Mélanges d’archéologie et d’histoire publié par l’Ecole française de Rome 74 (1962), pp. 79-122.

Peter J. Holliday, “Narrative structures in the François tomb,” in Narrative and event in ancient art , (Cambridge, 1988), pp. 175-197.

A. Hus. Vulci Étrusque et Étrusco-Romaine. (Paris: Klincksieck, 1972).

Jaclyn Neel, “The Vibennae: Etruscan Heroes and Roman Historiography” Etruscan Studies 20.1:1-34.

A. Sgubini Moretti (ed), Eroi Etruschi e Miti Greci. (Rome: Soprintendenza per i beni archeologici dell’Etruria meridionale, 2004).


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