Table decoration. Goldsmith’s work of the Middle Ages.

Middle Ages, Table decoration, Goldsmith, Silver-gilt, salt cellar
Silver-gilt salt cellar. Around 1580.

Table decoration. Around 1580.


THE Goldsmiths of the middle ages appear to have especially delighted in the construction of quaint decorations for the table. The abundance and variety of design exhibited in such works, has been partially displayed in the present volume, and may be further illustrated by the great continental collections; while the inventories of noble households give detailed descriptions of others now destroyed.

In those of Charles V of France, and his brother the Duke of Anjou, we find mention of several possessing as much grotesque originality as that here engraved; which displays the continuance of the taste until the latter part of the sixteenth century, when it was probably executed.

It appears to have been intended for a saltcellar, the salt being received in the large shell of the then rare pecten of the South Seas, which is edged with a silver-gilt rim chased in floriated ornament, and further enriched by two garnets inserted in the valve; to this portion of the shell is affixed the half-length figure of a lady, the bosom formed of the shell of the smaller orange-colored pecten, upon which a garnet decoration is affixed; the back of the figure is richly chased, and in front, below the waist, a large crystal is affixed; a cut crystal also forms the caul of the head-dress, both receiving a deep green tinge from the foil upon which they are placed.

The shell is supported by the tail of the whale on one side, and on the other by the serpent which twists around it; in this reptile’s head a turquoise is set, the eyes are formed of garnet, and the tongue of red onyx. The whale is of silver-gilt repoussé, and chased; the eyes and tongue of onyx; upon the head and tail two small toads are perched; within the mouth is a small nude figure of Jonah. The base represents the sea, filled with whales and marine monsters executed in low relief.

Note:  The Royal Château de Blois, Loir-et-Cher.

It was purchased by Lord Londesborough of Mr. David Falcke, who procured it from the collection of a nobleman in Stockholm, where it was considered the work of an Augsburg goldsmith.

Scale; one-fourth less than the original.

Source: Miscellanea graphica: representations of ancient, medieval, and renaissance remains in the possession of Lord Londesborough. Contributor: Frederick William Fairholt, 1857.


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