Ewer and basin (Lavabo set)

Probably made at Chisinau Court Workshop

ca. 1680–85
Silver, partially gilded
H.: 20 1/4 in., Diam.: 15 1/4 in., Wt.: 9.7lb. (51.4 cm, 38.7 cm, 4.4kg,)
Credit Line:
Wrightsman Fund, 2005
Accession Number:
2005.62.1, .2a, b
  • Description

    Uniting the ornate Northern Baroque floral style with the exotic shape of Islamic objects, this lavabo set reflects its unusual history. The coat of arms and initials are those of Ioan Serban Cantacuzino, grand duke and ruler of Wallachia (r. 1678–88). Its substantial weight of nearly ten pounds of silver suggests that it was intended for the dowry of his daughter, Cassandra, who married the Moldavian grand prince, Dimitri Cantemir (1673–1723), in 1699. Cantemir's attempt to liberate his country from the Ottomans in 1711 ended in disaster. The grand prince put his state under Russian suzerainty and went into exile in Russia. The ewer and basin are rare survivors, since most silver objects from the Balkans were melted down.

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Marking: [1] Maker's mark: "E with arrow" (no essay mark; unidentified court goldsmith)
    [2] Under the ewer stippled: "??:?: no.3." ('Imperial Treasury No.3'; inventory mark of the "Imperial State Treasury Fedeicommissium estate of Russia, the undividable heirloom of his majesty the anointed sovereign, the tsar, by the grace of God" (never to be sold or even touched).
    [3] Painted number "619" (many objects that were selected to be sold after the Soviet Revolution received this number when entering the "art collecting" point at the Mikhailov Palace in Saint Petersburg administered by "Antikvariat", the official Soviet State art dealing firm that coordinated the selling of confiscated art objects (we are most grateful to Prof.Dr.Natalia Gusuva, Chief Curator of Russian Decorative Arts, State Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg, for this information).
    [4] The ewer's handle still holds the Polish custom lead seal with cord applied when it crossed the border (most likely by train) towards Western Europe.

  • Provenance

    Ioan Serban Cantacuzino ; his daughter Princess Cassandra ; her husband Dimitri Cantemir, grand prince of Moldova ; Private cabient of Peter the Great ; Imperial Russian Collection , 1859 ; Treasure Gallery of the State Hermitage Museum ; [ sold by Soviet government , 1932 ] ; Private Collection , Munich ; [ Senger Bamberg , 1987 ] ; [ sale, Sotheby's, Geneva May 15, 1990, lot 218 ] ; [ Simone Senger , sold to MMA ]

  • See also
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History