Beaker with Apes

Date: ca. 1425–50

Geography: Made in probably the Burgundian territories

Culture: South Netherlandish

Medium: Silver, silver gilt, and painted enamel

Dimensions: Overall: 7 7/8 x 4 5/8 in. (20 x 11.7 cm)

Classification: Enamels-Painted

Credit Line: The Cloisters Collection, 1952

Accession Number: 52.50


One of the finest surviving examples of medieval enamel created for a princely table, this beaker was probably made for the Burgundian court. It illustrates a popular legend that remarks on the folly of man. A peddler is robbed by a band of apes as he sleeps. The peddler, seen just above the base, fails to stir even as the apes strip away his clothes. Other apes, having taken his goods, cavort in the branches overhead. The beaker, which originally had a cover, is decorated with "painted" enamel, so called because the material was applied freely over the silver, without the grooves that separate the colors in champlevé enameling or the incised patterns that provide guidelines for the application of translucent enamels. The unusual and adept grisaille (shades of gray) enamel technique is found on several other surviving objects, all of which have been associated with the courts of the dukes of Burgundy.