Wenzel Jamnitzer (German, Nuremberg, 1508–1585, master 1534)
Silver gilt, ebony, and mirror plate
11 5/8 x 9 1/8 in. (29.5 x 23.2 cm)
Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917 (17.190.620)
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 artsArithmetic, Geometry, Perspective, and Architecturewas 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.