Art/ Collection/ Art Object

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
Not on view
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.
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.
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 , Germany, until 2005; sold to MMA ]
Related Objects

Rosewater ewer

Artist: Possibly by Johann Erhard Heiglen (German, before 1687–1757) Date: ca. 1730 Medium: Silver gilt Accession: 1977.1.11 On view in:Gallery 533

Parade ewer and basin

Artist: Ewer by Marx Weinold (German, master 1665, died 1700) Date: ca. 1689–92 Medium: Silver, partially gilt Accession: 2014.265a, b On view in:Gallery 551


Artist: Symon Owen (active 1595–1624) Date: 1610–11 Medium: Gilt silver Accession: 68.141.136 On view in:Not on view

Ewer and basin

Artist: Jean Fauche (ca. 1706–1762, master 1733) Date: 1739–42 Medium: Silver Accession: 48.187.411, .412 On view in:Gallery 522

Ewer and basin

Artist: Joseph-Pierre-Jacques Duguay (born 1724, master 1756, recorded 1793) Date: 1761–62 Medium: Silver Accession: 48.187.413, .414 On view in:Gallery 522