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

A set of 5 cups, 1620

These silver cups are from Transylvania, their creator was Simon Berwert, a Saxon master from Nagyszeben. Splayed cylindrical forms the beakers are engraved with slightly stylized leaves and floral decoration. There is one cover for the set the cast finial is in the form of a standing putto. Marked with maker’s sign. They are on display in the Museum of Applied Arts, Budapest.

Dimensions: height: 18 cm; base diameter: 4 cm; diameter: 6 cm; weight: 400 g

Footed beaker, mid-17th century

Maker: Franciscus Rether (active 1634–84, master 1635)
Date: mid-17th century
Culture: Transylvanian (Saxon), Brassó (Brasov, Kronstadt)
Medium: Silver
Dimensions: Overall: 8 3/8 x 4 5/16 in. (21.2 x 11 cm)
Classification: Metalwork-Silver
Credit Line: Gift of The Salgo Trust for Education, New York, in memory of Nicolas M. Salgo, 2010
(Metropolitan Museum)
Footed beaker, ca. 1680
Trumpet-shaped beakers with high hollow bases were one of Salgo’s great passions, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art selected several examples from his collection to document their variety of sizes, artistic quality, and type of decoration. Hunting scenes and a lion, elk, and rampant horse are all powerfully depicted in this piece. The applied, molded ring marks the actual bottom of the liquid-containing part of this piece.
Footed beaker, ca. 1680
Tihamér Gyárfás. A brassai ötvösség története. Brassó, 1912, p. 108, no. 183.
European and English Silver. Sale cat., Sotheby’s, London, July 11–12, 1985, n.p., no. 80.
Judit H. Kolba. Hungarian Silver: The Nicolas M. Salgo Collection. London, 1996, p. 50, no. 28.
Source: Wolfram Koeppe 2015



A Tankard from Debrecen, Hungary (1627)

Maker: Michael Beri (active ca. 1627) Date: ca. 1627 Culture: Hungarian, Debrecen Medium: Gilded silver 

Dimensions: Overall: 7 1/16 x 4 7/8 in. (18 x 12.4 cm) It is in the Metropolitan Museum, New York, not in view…

Tankard, 1627

The Museum’s description:

“Prints were a key source for Beri in fashioning this tankard. Its form was made popular through the printed designs of Bernhard Zan. Scrollwork cartouches frame three oval reliefs filled with animals: a unicorn before an urban structure, a grazing horse in a landscape, and a recumbent lioness or panther near a well and tower. These animal scenes follow prints from a Thierbuch (or book of animals), published by Jost Amman and Hans Bocksberger in Frankfurt in 1579, that was an especially common source for metal-workers.”

A silver cup from Transylvania, 1648

Dimensions: height: 19,5 cm; opening diameter: 13,5 cm It is on display in the Museum of Applied Arts, Budapest. 

The side is decorated with the engraved marital arms of János Kemény and Zsuzsanna Kallai, ensigned with a coronet and surrounded by a wreath. There is also an inscription around the coats of arms: IOHANNES KEMENY ANNO 1648, SVSANNA KALLAI ANNO 1648. The rim has an engraved VII, which refers to the number of the beaker series. Marked with maker’s signature on the base as yet unidentified.

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, 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]

Canister,1681 (Metropolitan Museum)

Hungarian, possibly from Fogaras castle. The six dynamic semicircular lobes are reminiscent of Byzantine and later orthodox sacred architecture but the Ottoman-influenced engraved floral decoration of pomegranates, tulips, and roses against black enamel suggests the canister served a useful purpose. When the domed lid is screwed down, it holds in place a second tidily inserted lid to hermetically seal the gilt interior. The arms belong to Michael Teleki of Szék and his third wife Judith Weér de Köröstarcsa, to whom the inscription VER JUDIT refers.

Fine Russian Works of Art, Fabergé, Watches and Clocks . . . Silver / Objets d’art russes, Fabergé, montres et pendules . . . orfèvrerie européenne. Sale cat., Christie’s, Geneva, November 12–15, 1984, p. 181, no. 529.
Judit H. Kolba. Hungarian Silver: The Nicolas M. Salgo Collection. London, 1996, p. 81, no. 59.
Wolfram Koeppe in “Recent Acquisitions: A Selection, 2010–2012.” The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 70, no. 2 (Fall 2012), p. 29.
A plate inscribed with the same names and similar coats 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.
Elemér Kőszeghy. Magyarországi ötvösjegyek a középkortól 1867-ig / Merkzeichen der Goldschmiede Ungarns vom Mittelalter bis 1867. Budapest, 1936, pp. 113–15.
[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 were 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.

A footed beaker with cover, 1682 (Metropolitan Museum)

This monumental beaker is one of the largest known of its type. It has a hollow base and an undulating ring that marks the actual bottom of the vessel on the outside. Both of these features are characteristic of Hungarian and Transylvanian production. The inscribed coat of arms at left indicates that it belonged to a member of a princely Transylvanian family, Count Mikes, who came from one of the most ancient dynasties of the Székely people. 

Together with the Saxons, the Székelys were crucial for the defense of Hungary’s eastern border against the Ottomans. The number “XX” may indicate that the beaker was the largest in an assembled set from which two smaller beakers are now preserved in the Hungarian National Museum in Budapest. The lute-playing angel garbed in peasant costume is very close to a similar figure decorating a silver-gilt tankard by Michael Schellung, made in Brassó about 1640. Both were likely inspired by the same printed design source.

Maker: Johannes (Hans) Mautner (master 1670, died 1694) Date: 1682 Culture: Saxon / Hungarian, Brassó Medium: Gilded silver

Dimensions: Overall: 15 3/4 x 6 11/16 in. (40 x 17 cm) Classification: Metalwork-Silver

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


A silver cup – with the arms of Bethlen Miklós and Rhédey Júlia (around 1693)

It was made by the Saxon Sebestyén Hann in Nagyszeben, Transylvania, and it is in the Museum of Applied Arts, Budapest. This item, representative of Transylvanian Renaissance goldsmith art, used to be in the possession of Benjámin Kállay. It is a member of a set of beakers fitting into each other. The 6 or 12-piece sets were made for special occasions, engagements, and nuptials.

The surface of the beaker, slightly widening in a curve, is decorated with a special punching tool and resembles shark skin. There are coats of arms and signs on its side, in two oval fields. To the left, Bethlen’s coat of arms with the snake and the crown and the inscription “NICOL DE BETHLEN CONT EN CAN REG COM M C E IHVST C S”. To the right, there is a bird in a coat of arms field with a helmet, and the name “IVLIA REDEI”, referring to the Transylvanian councilor and his wife. The bottom base edge features a later chiseling: “PRO SPONZA-BARBARA BETHLEN ANNO 1693”, according to which Bethlen gave it to his daughter from his first marriage.

Its pendant can be found in the collection of the National Museum. Its mouth and base edges and the oval fields of the coats of arms are gilt.

It is marked on its bottom with the initials SH in an oval field – a monogram of Sebestyén Hann (1644–1713), the most significant master of Hungarian Baroque goldsmith art.

Dimensions: height: 19 cm; opening diameter: 12,6 cm; base diameter: 8,9 cm; weight: 528 g;

A Beaker, late 17th century

This beaker was made in Hungary, in Rimaszombat. Floral decoration was very popular in goldsmiths’ work in the later seventeenth century, culminating with the use of large, swirling blossoms and foliage, as seen on this beaker that is elevated on ball feet. Objects with this form belonged to a standard type and were produced in large quantities throughout Central and Eastern Europe.

Medium: Silver, partly gilded; Dimensions: Overall: 4 1/2 x 4 in. (11.5 x 10.1 cm)

It is on display in the Metropolitan Museum in New York. 

A Footed Cup, late 17th century

This silver vessel was made in Transylvania, in Brassó by the Saxon artist Michael Neustadter, and it is in the Museum of Applied Arts, in Budapest. The dimensions are: height: 13,6 cm; base diameter: 6,5 cm; opening diameter: 6,9 cm; weight: 120,4 g;

Tapering, cylindrical body with everted rim. The foot band is decorated with bent, chased flowers. The foot is connected to the body with a wavy belt, on which there are three stylized flowers in three cartouches. The master’s and the city’s marks are punched on the rim of the foot.

Beaker, 1730-1750

Maker: Georgius Olescher Jr. (master in 1721, died 1761) Culture: Hungarian / German Saxon Medium: Silver, partly gilded

Dimensions: Overall: 7 7/8 x 4 13/16 in. (20 x 12.2 cm) It is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (not in view)

The Museum’s description: “An elegant rhythm is created in this beaker by alternating gilded vertical concave flutes with silver panels containing finely embossed and chased ornament on a matte ground. Georgius Olescher Jr., the maker here, was probably inspired by the work of Michael II May, who spent several years in France becoming familiar with Regence ornaments, returning to Brassó by December 1731. Other Transylvanian beakers are similarly decorated, including examples with this typical bell-shaped form.”

“And it was May who produced several such large beakers, all of which are similarly ornamented (István Heller. Ungarische und siebenbürgische Goldschmiedearbeiten: Vom Ende des 16. Jahrhunderts bis zum Ende des 19. Jahrhunderts. Munich, 2000, pp. 106–8, nos. 31 and 32). Some were produced with a lid. The Regence strapwork is an adaptation of French and German silver ornament but was also one of the main patterns featured on porcelain from the influential Viennese DuPaquier manufactory. The number of surviving examples made in Brassó indicates that this type of drinking vessel, all partially gilded, was extremely popular in the region.”

More vessels to be described are coming soon…

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