An Exquisite Pair of German Baroque Beakers with Figural Representations of the Four Seasons, Silver, partly Gilt
This pair of beakers engraved with allegorical representations of the four seasons represent an exceptional ensemble of the German baroque. Not only is the maker one of the best silversmiths of this period in Augsburg, but the the engravings on the beakers themselves are exceptionally well crafted and secure, showing the exceptional condition they are in.
There is no doubt that the theme of this present pair beakers heightens there interestingness and charm, however the exquisite and detailed works of engraving gives them the ability to be furthermore fascinating and engaging. The representations of the four seasons are divided in two pairs, each pair are placed on two sides of the beakers. On the one, Ceres holding a sickle and corn stalks in order to represent Summer and Bacchus on a barrel signifying Autumn. On the other, Diana/Luna with a dog, cloak and bow for Winter and Flora holding flowers depicting Spring. Each cartouche with the four figures is interrupted by engraved fruit and flower clusters. All four gods are presented quite decently and are thus a rather conservative representation of the Four Seasons. The marks are on the bottom. Both beakers are gilt inside.
The Four Seasons
The theme of the four seasons has been represented a large number of times in fine art. Most commonly designed as a four-part cycle, the sequence of spring, summer, autumn and winter symbolises the nourishment of mother earth, the topos of abundance and ultimately of the eternal cycle of nature: becoming and decaying, growing and maturing, ephemerality and revival. The change of the four seasons has become a symbol of time and ephemerality.
Since the Roman time period the four seasons have been noticed: Ver, Aestas, Autumnusand Hiems. This series laid the foundation for the German ideas of spring, summer, autumn and winter (Lauffer 1953: 254). Often this sequence is connected with the elements: air, fire, water and earth (Lauffer 1953: 255). Within late-antique sarcophagi and in early Christian catacomb paintings, personifications of the seasons were a common motif, often in connection with fruits, animals and Erotes.
Peter Breughel the Elder (1525/30-1569) was the first to depict spring, summer, autumn, and winter altogether as natural phenomena in painting (1565). Cesare Ripa (1555-1622) in his Iconologiaalso he describes the seasons (Ripa 1613: 260-4 / T. II), as well as the twelve months of the year. Commonly, where there, seasonal illustrations on panel and wall paintings, during the sixteenth and seventeenth century in Italy, in particular produced by Guilio Romano (c. 1499-1546)and Paolo Veronese (1528-1588). The French, Italian, and Dutch obtained lots of pleasure in presenting the seasons (see e.g. works of Étienne Delaune, Giuseppe Arcimboldo, Paul Bril, Hendrick Goltzius). One of the most famous four seasons painting was created by Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665) during the last years of his life (1660/64) (today in Louvre, Paris).
In 1690 a French-German book was published in Augsburg by the engraver and publisher Johann Ulrich Krauß (1655-1719), displaying the tapestries designed by Charles Le Brun within the Manufacture des Gobelins (est. 1662), made for the King of France. This series explains the tapestries whereby the Four Elements, the Four Seasons and their attributes along with their maxim are presented. Thus throughout the seventeenth century, the representation of the Four Seasons – along with other allegorical representations – is a recurrent theme that appears in different media and techniques.
All forms of decorative arts followed this tendency devotedly. There are some wonderful examples within German silver, such as the “Four Seasons” enamel liqueur service made by Elias Adam ca. 1710 in Augsburg, today displayed in the Metropolitan Museum. Another example is a pair of silver and enamel bottles with screw caps showing Bacchus, Ceres and other similar figures, in the collections of the Germanisches Nationalmuseum(s. also cat. Wenzel Jamnitzer und die Nürnberger Goldschmiedekunst 1500-1700, colour fig. 18 and cat. no. 165-166, p. 294). Another being example being this wonderful pair of silver beakers depicting the Four Seasons.
Ceres as Summer
On the side of the first beaker, the goddess Ceres is seen representing summer. The young Ceres sits by a tree and holds a sickle on her left hand and sheaves of corn on her right. Next to her lies bounded sheaves of corn whilst behind there is a field of corn, along with this she is wearing a wreath of corns on her head. Ceres, just like the other female figures represented on this pair of beakers, is clothed with a long, rich draped summer-dress and is wearing sandals.
Since the Renaissance, Ceres has appeared in allegorical depictions of the abundance of the crop and of fertility. In cycles of the four seasons, she appears mostly commonly as the personification of summer. And in this example, she holds a sickle and sheaves of corn.
Ceres is frequently depicted with the God Apollo however more often then not she can be seen alongside Bacchus. These two are a paired because through the iconography both there origins can be found in ancient times. The Roman comedian Terence (c. 195/185 – c. 159 BC) used in his comedy the Eunuchusthe proverb: ‘Sine Cerere et Baccho friget Venus’ or ‘Sine Cerere et Libero friget Venus’. Evidently the proverb was well-known to the contemporaries of Terence. Figuratively it means that love needs food and drink to thrive.
The theme of Bacchus and Ceres along with Amor became relatively popular in Northern Europe, notably through mannerist artists at the court of Emperor Rudolf II in Prague, since the beginning of the seventeenth century. One of the early motifs of the pair is the painting of Hans van Aachen, Bacchus, Ceres and Amor (?), 1595/1605, today in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna. The fact that Ceres is on the present beaker companied by Bacchus shows the possibility of a connection to the wishes of the ordering customer of this pair of beakers.
Interestingly, the combination of Bacchus and Ceres in the works of Dutch artists in the seventeenth century is connected to from of propaganda for beer, as promoted by the brewers of Haarlem (see on this Santos, 2012).
An engraving of the Dutch Frederik Bouttats the Elder(within his album with engravings on the natural history, today in the Rijksmuseum) depicting the Four Seasons made around 1670, shows a half-naked young Bacchus next to Ceres and Flora. This is one of the depictions of the three gods being in which the Gds appear similar to these on these present beakers.
Bacchus as Autumn
Young Bacchus, on the other side of the first beaker, is sitting on a barrel and has both of his arms extended. On his left, he is holding a drinking bowl and on his right a grapevine. The God is not completely naked, but his genital parts are being covered with wine-leaves and grapes, whilst his head is crowned with a grapevine wreath. Around him the ladnscape is filled with mountains, grapes and a pot with grape-vines and leaves.
The allegorical depictions of Bacchus have undergone a considerable development since the Renaissance. Particularly during the sixteenth century, he was very often presented in allegorical depictions of the Four Seasons and cycles on the Labours of the months. A relatively popular depiction of Bacchus in the European iconography is the God sitting next to or on a barrel. In South Germany, as in the rest of Northern Europe and Italy, there are numerous images depicting Autumn/Bacchus like this. For example from Ebrach, next to Bamberg/Bavaria, see here; and for a graphic example originating from Augsburg, The Four Seasons by J. C. Guttwein see here.
Diana as Winter
On the second beaker, one can find the couple Diana and Flora as representations of the seasons. Diana, the Roman goddess of women, has been identified since the Roman times to the Greek goddess of hunt, animals and forests Artemis (Άρτεμις). On the beaker, she is represented, sited and like the other female figures, she is prudently clothed with a long, rich draped dress. Significantly she is seen with her important possessions and attribute, the bow and arrow. On her right, a sitting dog can be seen – a common companion of the goddess – and on her head, she has the half-moon, an attribute of the goddess connecting her to Luna and subsequently to the Night.
Since the Renaissance Diana has been used as a symbol of feminine chastity, while her representations in Germany and other European countries have become richer within the baroque period. Thus during the seventeenth century, it was popular, in the decorative arts especially silver, to represent Diana sitting on a deer. Augsburg is a city which has provided several such representations of Diana.
Diana has been represented together with Bacchus and Flora in seasonal cycles which have had a significant connection to Venus. Pictures, of the beginning of the eighteenth century, provide evidence that such representations must have been known and widespread in South Germany (see two paintings by Anton Kern (1710-1747) in the collections of the Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nürnberg).
The fact that, here, Diana could also be identified with Luna and is connected to the season representation; the winter being a time-period with less exposure to sunlight and thus with longer dark-hours within a day.
Other known allegorical depictions of winter as a woman during the seventeenth century include the one made by Wenceslaus (Wenzel) Hollar (1607-77), in the Metropolitan Museum of Artand other collections. Dutch painters and engravers have also produced allegorical representations of winter as a woman.
Flora as Spring
Flora is represented on the beaker dressed in a long dress, holding roses on her left and a pot full of flowers on her right. She is also stemmed with a wreath of roses. The landscape behind and next to her is left quite plain: some mountains on her right, a pot with a tree on her left.
The Latin translation of the Greek Chloris (Χλωρίς) stood for, in the Roman times, blossoming. During the early modern period and especially throughout the fifteenth century, she is the allegorical figure of spring and as such she is often, in the arts, depicted as a young, beautiful woman surrounded by flowers and ordinarily wearing a wreath of flowers. In the court life and gardens of the seventeenth and eighteenth century, Flora was a popular figure, by which many noble ladies portrayed the character, Flora. (e.g. Minette, the niece of Louis XIV, in a portrait of the royal family made by Jean Nocret in 1670).
Representations of Flora in the early modern times from South Germany include those of the painter and engraver Gabriel Meyer (1576-1632), who produced a series of allegorical representations of the Four Seasons (a color drawing of Flora is saved in the Library of the University of Wurzburg). Dutch Mannerist painters, like for instance Abraham Bloemaert (1566-1651) have also represented Flora. One engraving based on a drawing of Bloemaert – today in the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen – depicts a prudent Flora(i.e. dressed), showing thus similarities to the representation of the goddess on this present beaker.
Johann Conrad Trefflerwas born around 1648 and became a master maker circa 1682. He died in 1716, and was specialised in silver objects decorated with detailed engravings, frequently of landscapes. One of his boxes is kept in the Historical Museum of Moscow.
Leopold Ettlinger, Ceres, in: Reallexikon zur Deutschen Kunstgeschichte, Bd. III (1952), Sp. 397–403; in: RDK Labor, URL: <http://www.rdklabor.de/w/?oldid=88925> [15.05.2018].
Lauffer, Otto, ‚Allegorie der Begriffe der Zeit, des Jahres und der Jahreszeiten, der Monate und der Tageszeiten’ In: Beiträge zur sprachlichen Volksüberlieferung, Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1953, p. 250-9.
Ripa, Cesare, Iconologia Di Cesare Ripa Pervgino Cav. Re De’S.ti Mavrition, E. Lazzaro Nella Quale Si Descrivono Diverse Imagini di Virtù, Vitig, Affetti, Passioni humane, Arti, Discipline, Humori, Elementi, Corpi Celesti, Prouincie d’Italia, Fiumi, Tutte le parti di Mondo, ed altre infinite materie. Opera utile ad oratori, predicatori, poeti, pittori, scultori, T. I-II, Siena: Matteo Florimi, 1613 Santos, R. de Mambro, “The Beer of Bacchus. Visual Strategies and Moral Values in Hendrick Goltzius’ Representations of Sine Cerere et Libero Friget Venus”, in Emblemi in Olanda e Italia tra XVI e XVII secolo, ed. E. Canone and L. Spruit, 2012, Olschki Editore, Florence (online hier) (zuletzt aufgerufen: 15. Mai 2018).
Sauerländer, Willibald, ‘Die Jahreszeiten: ein Beitrag zur allegorischen Landschaft beim späten Poussin’ In: Münchner Jahrbuch der bildenden Kunst, 1956, p. 169-184.