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The Usefulness of Magnificence: Silver and the English Court

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Relief mounted as a mirror frame

Wenzel Jamnitzer (German, Vienna 1507/8–1585 Nuremberg)

Date:
ca. 1568
Culture:
German, Nuremberg
Medium:
Gilded silver, ebony, mirror plate
Dimensions:
H. 11 5/8 x W. 9 1/8 in. (29.5 x 23.2 cm)
Classification:
Metalwork-Silver
Credit Line:
Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917
Accession Number:
17.190.620
  • Description

    Wenzel Jamnitzer was the greatest Mannerist goldsmith in the German-speaking area of the Holy Roman Empire. The city of Nuremberg appointed him a coin and seal die-cutter in 1543 and, in 1552, master of the city mint (Clara Rosenberger, 17.190.468), thus recognizing him as the foremost among all Nuremberg goldsmiths. As an imperial goldsmith to the Habsburg court, he served no less than four emperors. Much of his fame was based on highly inventive objects and mounted naturalia for princely curiosity cabinets, as well as ostentatious presentation pieces. The design of this relief frame, with personifications of the medieval quadrivium, the major four of the seven liberal arts—Arithmetic, Geometry, Perspective, and Architecture—was adopted from the title page of a treatise on perspective, Perspectiva corporum regularium, published by Jamnitzer in 1568. The frame's use as a mirror is of later date. The relief was originally most likely the cover for a parade edition of Jamnitzer's book. It could have framed a portrait of Jamnitzer himself or its first owner, executed in a different medium such as enamel, miniature portrait painting, or exotic materials. One such edition of the famous treatise is recorded in Dresden in 1587, where it was kept in the Kunstkammer of the Elector of Saxony.

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Inscription: (on scroll on inner border, by each figure of woman, respectively) ARITHMETICA, GEOMETRICA, PERPECTIVA, ARCHITECTVRA;
    (on scroll by each amorino, respectively) INCLINATIO, DILIGENTIA

    Marking: [1] N in circle (Nuremberg town mark 1550–1700);
    [2] W over mask (maker's mark);
    [3] AI in hexagonal shield (mark of Bureau of Control of Vienna for imported silver, used 1872–1901);
    Location of marks: Mark [1] in lower corner, marks [2] and [3] in lower right corner.

  • Provenance

    J. Pierpont Morgan (until 1917; to MMA)

  • See also
193593

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