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Pilgrim’s flask designed by Erasmus Hornick

German goldsmith

Sud Germania, 17th century

Material: Embossed chiseled silver, and glass

Size: 33 cm high

review by gherardo turchi

A rare and very valuable pilgrim’s flask made of  masterfully embossed silver , containing a blown glass red vermilion bottle,  manufactured in one of those flourishing jewelers’ shops active in northern Europe during the 19th century and based on a design by Erasmus Hornick.

Hornick, a famous jeweler and designer, was born in Antwerp in 1520, moving then between 1555 and 1582 to the cities of Habsburg and Nuremberg alternately, to create sublime works commissioned by the noble German families of the time. He died in Prague, the town where he moved at the end of 1582; in 1583 he left, as his legacy to posterity, a large amount of drawings and engravings that would have inspired many of his followers and admirers in the field of top quality jewelry over the following centuries. Much of his designs and studies are now preserved in the Metropolitan Museum of Arts in New York.

One of the drawings kept in New York, indeed, seems to be inspired by the maker of the work here revised; the work marked with the inventory number 1975.131.70 at the MET, recalls many stylistic traits, both for its engraving quality and shape, similar to the flask under review here.

Even though these works were mainly used as decorative objects, considering that a real use by pilgrims should not have been pragmatic during the XVI century and following ones, they were nevertheless manufactured as if being real useful objects.


Rich in twisted spirals and masks typical, this flask has in its central body, on both sides, two medallions carved respectively with a noble coat of arms and a grotesque head, from which some leaf volutes are interrupted by flowers and pomegranates, par excellence symbols of abundance and prosperity; the neck of the flask is adorned with masks enclosed in half cartouches on whose sides, two crowned heads stand out replacing the handles.  

Its screw cap, also made with the embossing, has on its top a two-faced cherub head inserted in an architectural motif with stylized wings. The oval base, then, recalls the typical sinuous patterns of the architectural tradition in the 19th century Southern Germany, strongly influenced by the traits of Venetian art.
A characteristic trait of the Venetian influence is in fact the vermilion red blown glass bottle, placed inside as a container for liquids, made using the free manual shaping of glass through the blowing cane, typical of the Venetian master glassmakers.

The work is in an excellent condition and represents an important testimony of how Hornick’s mastery was widely recognized and honoured even centuries after his death.


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