in 14 Fächer zerlegbares Fass aus Silber und Gold
© SKD, Foto: Pykado

Disassembled and Uncovered. Silver Drinking Games with Mother-of-Pearl

There were no limits to the fantasy and inventiveness of the sixteenth and seventeenth-century goldsmiths. The scurrility of the drinking vessels that came out of their workshops still amaze us today. They created cups and goblets in the form of all kinds of animals and imaginary creatures, but also as ships that could roll across the tabletop on wheels. Even the wine god Bacchus himself – the quintessential embodiment of the riotous drinking orgy – cleverly served the purpose of ingesting alcoholic beverages.

  • DATES 01/09/2016—21/11/2016

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Yet it was also an age in which the use of exotic materials was especially popular – for example the shell of the turban snail indigenous to the Pacific and Indian Oceans, or that of the cephalopod known as the emperor or chambered nautilus. Furnished with opulent silver mounts, they enjoyed the utmost popularity at the Saxon court and made their way into the Dresden cabinet of curiosities as exquisite collectors’ items. It was only later that they were moved to the Grünes Gewölbe, which today possesses the most remarkable holdings of this kind. The Wettin electors also made a point of acquiring examples of Indian mother-of-pearl work. As highly coveted as they were expensive, these objects were imported to Europe by Portuguese trading companies and furnished here with elaborate silver mounts.

in 14 Fächer zerlegbares Fass aus Silber und Gold
© SKD, Foto: Pykado
Martin Borisch, Fass mit 14 Bechern, 1657 Dresden


Within the framework of a research project on the subject of “Goldsmiths’ Work of the 16th to 18th Centuries at the Dresden Court as an Instrument of Royal Prestige”, this part of the collection is presently undergoing thorough investigation and, in part, restoration. The small exhibition on view here features a number of the insights and surprising discoveries made in that context.

We thank the Fritz Thyssen Stiftung and the Freunde des Grünen Gewölbes e. V. for generously supporting our current research.

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