Selected Passages from Hungarian-Ottoman Wars

Drinking vessels, 16th-17th century

In this post, I would like to collect those Hungarian / Transylvanian drinking vessels that were created in the 16th-17th century. These late Renessaince pieces of treasure are usually scattered all over the world, in several museums. It means, that many cups, goblets, beakers, and glasses are going to be added to this article, usually with the description given by the particular museum.

Drinking Vessel in the Form of a Hussar, around 1582

The Kunstkammer of Ferdinand II of Tyrol contains various objects that are closely connected with the archduke. These include his portrait in wax, his seal stamp, and the drinking vessel showing his son and heir Karl of Burgau as a Hussar. Ferdinand himself is believed to have made the somewhat unsuccessful lidded glass beaker. It was surely given the especially precious gold and jeweled mount for this reason.

This gilded silver vessel was made by Johann Zechel in Innsbruck. Dimensions: Height: 53,3 cm, Length: 25 cm

It can be seen in Vienna, Austria, in the Kunsthistorisches Museum.

Footed beaker, late 16th century

Culture: Transylvanian Saxon, Nagyszeben (Sibiu, Hermannstadt)
Medium: Silver, partially gilded
Dimensions: Height: 9 13/16 in. (24.9 cm)
Classification: Metalwork-Silver

In terms of silver content, one of these beakers was considered equal to ten of the Show-Thaler coins, though their overall value is amplified by ornament and craftsmanship. Transylvania, part of Royal Hungary before 1570, supplied much of Europe’s silver and gold at the time. Alchemists regarded silver as the moon’s metal imbued with magic powers. It was also the currency of cash, in particular, the Thaler: a coin minted throughout sixteenth-century Europe. In an era marked by the constant threat of war, precious silver vessels were literally worth their weight in currency—easily melted down in times of need.
(It is on display in the Metropolitan Museum.)
Footed beaker, late 16th century

Standing cup, ca. 1670

It can be found in the Metropolitan Museum. Here is their description:

Maker: Georgius May I (active ca. 1655–84)
Date: ca. 1670
Culture: Transylvanian-Saxon, Brassó
Medium: Gilded silver
Dimensions: Overall: 9 1/8 x 5 in. (23.2 x 12.7 cm)
Classification: Metalwork-Silver
Credit Line: Gift of The Salgo Trust for Education, New York, in memory of Nicolas M. Salgo, 2010

The dolphin, a symbol of a long life, is also an attribute of Venus, goddess of love, as is the shell which is evoked by the form of the wine bowl. In ancient mythology, the dolphin is also a companion of Bacchus, the god of wine and erotic ecstasy (Wolfram Koeppe. Die Lemmers-Danforth Sammlung Wetzlar. Heidelberg, 1992, pp. 444 and 452, nos. GO 11, GO 33; Wolfram Koeppe. “Möbel und Schaustücke” in Liselotte von der Pfalz. Madame am Hofe des Sonnenkönigs. Exh. cat. Heidelberg, 1996, pp. 188 and 263). The cup’s form and imagery allude to the dangers of living in a war-torn region and celebrating love and a long, prosperous journey through life. The sophisticated program and quality of the craftsmanship suggest that the maker traveled through South Germany, where comparable vessels were made in Ulm and Augsburg.

Detail of the Standing cup, ca. 1670
Hungarian, Brassó, 

Magnificent Silver / Magnifique Orfèvrerie. Sale cat., Christie’s, Geneva, April 27, 1976, p. 13, no. 20.
Judit H. Kolba. Hungarian Silver: The Nicolas M. Salgo Collection. London, 1996, p. 76, no. 54.

Elemér Kőszeghy. Magyarországi ötvösjegyek a középkortól 1867-ig / Merkzeichen der Goldschmiede Ungarns vom Mittelalter bis 1867. Budapest, 1936, no. 225 [maker’s mark].
This cup is by the same master as that of a tankard with the story of Ahasverus in the Musée National du Moyen Age, Thermes de Cluny, Paris (see Oberschall Magda Bárányné. “Magyar és magyar vonatkozású művészeti emlékek Párisban.” Pt. 2. Magyar művészet 7, nos. 9–10 (1931), p. 550; Erdély régi művészeti emlékeinek kiállítása az Iparművészeti múzeumban / Ausstellung alten Kunstgewerbes aus Siebenbürgen. Exh. cat. Museum of Applied Arts. Budapest, 1931, p. 21, no. 73).
For a similar dolphin-form stem on a Hungarian nautilus cup, see Important English, Continental, and American Silver and Gold. Sale cat., Christie’s, New York, May 17, 2011, no. 104.

Source: Wolfram Koeppe 2015 and

A Double Cup, ca. 1600

It is in the Metropolitan Museum, too. They say: Culture: Hungarian; Medium: Gilded silver; Dimensions: Overall: 11 x 2 3/4 x 2 3/4 in. (28 x 7 x 7 cm) Classification: Metalwork-Silver

Credit Line: Gift of The Salgo Trust for Education, New York, in memory of Nicolas M. Salgo, 2010

Both parts of this double cup have tall lips that fit into one another. The cups can be stacked and displayed as decorative objects when not in use. The double-cup was a form produced only north of the Alps, and these ceremonial items served frequently as wedding gifts. The scrollwork and cherub ornament can be directly related to prints by Paulus Flindt (German, 1567–1611) His designs, published in Nuremberg and Vienna in various editions, were among the most influential decorative sources for European goldsmithing around 1600.

Judit H. Kolba. Hungarian Silver: The Nicolas M. Salgo Collection. London, 1996, p. 138, no. 116.

Eva Toranová. Goldschmiedekunst in der Slowakei. Translated by Helene Katrinaková. Hanau, 1982, p. 96, no. 178.
A similar double cup was sold at auction by Van Ham in Cologne, on November 15, 2014, no. 1350.
A cup with a similar vasiform stem was sold by Dr. Fischer Kunstauktionen in Heilbronn, May 12, 2012, no. 583.

Source: Wolfram Koeppe 2015

Standing cup (half of a double cup)

It is in the Metropolitan Museum. They say: Maker: Michael Czikos de Tarcal (active 1601–12) Culture: Hungarian, Kassa; Medium: Silver; Dimensions: Overall: 5 3/4 x 2 3/4 x 2 3/4 in. (14.6 x 7 x 7 cm)

Classification: Metalwork-Silver

Credit Line: Gift of The Salgo Trust for Education, New York, in memory of Nicolas M. Salgo, 2010

The punched intersecting lines on this silver cup is inspired by the Renaissance glass pattern reticello (meaning netlike), in which narrow opaque white glass rods form a fine lattice design with tiny air bubbles at the center of each diamond. In metalwork, the intersecting lines are punched with a light-catching dot. The tall lip indicates that the cup was originally one half of a double cup, like an intact pair in the Museum’s collection, acc. no. 2010.110.68a, b. When displayed, its pair would be placed upside down on top of it like an enormous lid.

Detail of a Standing cup, early 17th century, Hungarian

Catalogue of Fine European Silver. Sale cat., Sotheby’s, Geneva, November 10, 1981, p. 67, no. 170.
Judit H. Kolba. Hungarian Silver: The Nicolas M. Salgo Collection. London, 1996, p. 35, no. 13.

János Visegrádi. “Egyházi ötvösművek Zemplén vármegyéből.” Múzeumi és könyvtári értesítő 6 (1912), p. 30.
Elemér Kőszeghy. Magyarországi ötvösjegyek a középkortól 1867-ig / Merkzeichen der Goldschmiede Ungarns vom Mittelalter bis 1867. Budapest, 1936, nos. 813 [town mark], 869 [maker’s mark].
A Viennese standing cup with a similar decoration was with Galerie Neuse (Silber. Dealer’s cat. Text by Bernhard Heitmann. Bremen, 1994, pp. 18–9, no. 7).

Source: Wolfram Koeppe 2015

A Golden Cup from Transylvania, 17th century (British Museum)

The cup is in an excellent state of preservation, apart from a little damage to the equestrian figure of the Turk (on the cover) and some minor losses of enamel on the cover and on the eight jewels sewn to the sides of the bowl and the four jewels sewn to the sides of the foot.

Height: 19 centimetres (total); Diameter: 11.7 centimetres (cover) Weight: 766 grammes (total)

The bowl is covered in gold brocade, embroidered with seed pearls, and set with brooches and gems. Its richness identifies it as Transylvanian. It was made when the Ottoman Turks controlled most of Hungary, apart from mountainous Transylvania. The courts of Dresden and Vienna had a particular taste for this kind of exotic jeweled work.

Curator’s Description:
Standing cup and cover; gold; enameled and jeweled; outside of bowl and foot covered with a ground of gold thread on canvas foundation; on the bowl: four lyre-shaped garlands of seed pearls laid on a silver thread; quatrefoil ornament in openwork high relief within each garland, each with a central diamond, four pearls, and enameled petals; between the garlands, four aigrette-shaped ornaments of similar style;

The upper and lower edge of bowl: a row of pearls; foot ornamented similarly with gold thread, pearls, and cartouches, enameled and jeweled with rubies and diamonds; bottom of the bowl and lower part of foot: applied borders of scrollwork, enameled and set with rubies, diamonds and pearls; cover ornamented with applied plates of scroll design, enameled and set with four rubies, twelve square table diamonds, and eight pearls; center: raised stand with four rubies and enameled mounted figure of a Saracen with a lance; inside: gold medal of Rudolph II, bust to right, bare head with ruff, wearing armor and Golden Fleece; inscribed.

This object was collected and bequeathed to the British Museum by Ferdinand Anselm Rothschild.

Coconut cup,ca. 1650, Transylvanian late-Renaissance

Maker: Johannes Fridericus Benedick (active ca. 1632–51)
(Metropolitan Museum)
Culture: Transylvanian-Saxon, Nagyszeben (Sibiu, Hermannstadt)
Medium: Gilded silver, coconut, turquoise
Dimensions:Height: 7 3/16 in. (18.3 cm)
Classification: Metalwork-Silver

Credit Line: Gift of The Salgo Trust for Education, New York, in memory of Nicolas M. Salgo, 2010
The hunting scene engraved on the lip may refer to the cup’s use after hunting trips when a welcome drink was offered to the most prestigious guests. The decoration is inspired by Virgil Solis’s prints, which were available to craftsmen in pattern books. By adding the turquoises, the goldsmith catered to the local taste of the Ottoman. Marked coconut cups from the Hungarian/Transylvanian region are extremely rare. Of the twenty cups preserved at the Hungarian National Museum in Budapest only one is marked.

Feeding bowl set, 1690

Date: 1690
Culture: Hungarian, Transylvania (I think it was made by the local Saxons.)
Medium: Silver, partly gilded
Dimensions:Overall: 6 3/4 x 8 x 4 7/16 in. (17.2 x 20.3 x 11.3 cm)
Classification: Metalwork-Silver
Credit Line: Gift of The Salgo Trust for Education, New York, in memory of Nicolas M. Salgo, 2010
The set is in the Metropolitan Museum, New York

This shell-shaped vessel—known as a feeding bowl—was used to serve strong broth or other liquid nourishment to the sick through a pierced well. The absence of marks suggests that the unknown goldsmith, who merged superior craftsmanship with inventive design to create this piece, was guild-exempt while working as a court goldsmith. On the cover plate is an armorial roundel with a Latin inscription encircling the ibex (goat) crest of Count Michael Teleki de Szék (b. 1634), a wealthy statesman, and military commander, and landlord. The engraved date 1690 is the year of the count’s death. He likely used the bowl himself during his final illness.

A similar coat of arms of a rampant goat as a hexagonal dish in the Hungarian National Museum (Judit H. Kolba. Schätze des ungarischen Barock. Exh. cat. Deutsches Goldschmiedehaus Hanau. Hanau, 1991, p. 82, no. 41). For a less ornate example see Baroque Splendor: The Art of the Hungarian Goldsmith. Exh. cat. by István Fodor et al. Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts. New York, 1994, p. 128, fig. 64.

A plate also inscribed with the name of Michael Teleki and his coat of arms was sold, Important Orfèvrerie Européenne, Boîtes en Or et Objets de Vitrine. Sale cat., Sotheby’s, Paris, December 1, 2011, p. 171, no. 280.
[Wolfram Koeppe 2015]

Saxon Tankard, ca. 1650 (Metropolitan Museum)

Maker: Valentinius (Felten) Urbiger (master in 1641, died 1657)
Date: ca. 1650
Culture: Transylvanian – Saxon, Brassó (Brasov, Kronstadt)
Medium: Gilded silver
Dimensions: Overall: 8 1/8 x 4 1/2 in. (20.6 x 11.5 cm)
Classification: Metalwork-Silver
Credit Line: Gift of The Salgo Trust for Education, New York, in memory of Nicolas M. Salgo, 2010

The harmonious proportions, the careful distinction between matte and polished areas, and the powerful lid with its sculptural finial give this great tankard a particular elegance. The little recumbent stag, a symbol of hunting, rests on the lid framed by thin branches of so-called Krauswerk, or silver scroll-sheet foliage, that defines the space. Various tankards and covered cups with a similar stag cast are known. The decorative finials were prefabricated and bought from specialists.

Its model was very popular. Cups in the form of a stag or beakers and tankards decorated with hunting motifs were offered after the hunt to special guests or to the most successful hunter in a hunting lodge.

Silver wine glass from 1632

It is decorated with the COA of Prince Rákóczi György I of Transylvania and his wife, Lorántffy Zsuzsanna on it;
Dimensions: 10,5 cm high, and 7.6 cm wide; weight: 222 gr;
When drinking wine, silver can get a darker color so as to avoid it, the inside and the drinking edge of the glass was gilded.
We can read the following text on it:

In the 17th century, there were similar silver glasses in each noble household. This glass is on display in the Museum of Applied Arts, Budapest.

More vessels to be described are coming soon…

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