Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Bellows with the Flight into Egypt

first half 16th century or later
Oak, leather, polychromy, gilding
Overall: 22 3/4 x 8 7/16 x 2 5/8 in. (57.8 x 21.5 x 6.6 cm)
Credit Line:
The Cloisters Collection, 1953
Accession Number:
Not on view
By the fifteenth century, bellows, an implement known from antiquity, were often richly decorated and were displayed on the chimneys of domestic interiors. This bellows, carved in high relief and once brightly painted, shows on one side the Flight into Egypt. Beneath the scene are two coats of arms, the left one unidentified, the right identified as that of Amsterdam, indicating that the bellows was once used in a household or a guild hall in that city. The back of the bellows has a circular inset within a deep gilded molding pierced with three openings for the intake of air. The air was expelled through the metal pipe projecting from the jaws of the dragon’s head at the end of the bellows. The sides of the bellows are of leather.

The decoration on this bellows of a religious subject does not indicate that it belongs to a religious establishment; such themes frequently appear on objects of daily household usage.

This same scene, in an almost identical representation, though without arms on the shields, appears on a bellows thought to be from Utrecht, circa 1510. The existence of two such similar bellows suggests that these items, in common use in the household during the Middle Ages, may have been produced in large quantities with the arms left blank for completion after purchase.
Inscription: (on border of Josephs robe) IOSEP MARIA FILI

Marking: (on two shields beneath scene of Flight into Egypt) Left: Or, a double-headed eagle displayed, sable. - Unidentified. Right: Gules, on a pale sable, 3 crosses saltire, argent.
Dugué, Paris (until 1851) ; his sale, Hôtel des Ventes, Paris (March 7, 1851, no. 13) ; Hollingworth Magniac, Colworth, Bedfordshire (from 1851?-sold 1892) ; his sale, Christie, Manson and Woods, London (July 2–4, 1892, no. 427) ; Dr. Albert Figdor, Vienna (until d. 1927) ; his posthumous sale, Paul Cassirer at Hotel Esplanade, Berlin (Sept. 29-30, 1930, vol. IV, no.176) ; Dr. Fritz Mannheimer, Amsterdam (sold 1953?) ; [ Rosenberg & Stiebel, New York (sold 1953)]
New York. The Cloisters Museum & Gardens. "The Secular Spirit: Life and Art at the End of the Middle Ages," March 28, 1975–June 15, 1975.

Catalogue d'une précieuse collections d'objets d'art du moyen-age [...] composant le Cabinet de Monsieur Dugué. Paris: Hôtel des Ventes, March 7, 1851. no. 13, p. 6.

Catalogue of the renowned collection of works of art, chiefly formed by the late Hollingwoth Magniac (also known as the Colworth Collection). London: Christie, Manson & Woods, July 2–4, 1892. no. 427, p. 112.

Falke, Otto von, and Max J. Friedländer, ed. Die Sammlung Dr. Albert Figdor, Wien. part I, Vol. 4. Vienna: Paul Cassirer Verlag, 1930. no. 176, pl. XCII.

Rosenberg, Jakob. "Die Berliner Versteigerung Figdor." Kunst und Künstler 29, no. 2 (1931). p. 87.

Husband, Timothy B., and Jane Hayward, ed. The Secular Spirit: Life and Art at the End of the Middle Ages. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1975. no. 15, p. 29.

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