The conically shaped cup of extraordinarily heavy quality presents the coin collection of a passionate collector:
23 valuable coins from the Central European region, from more than two centuries – from various ruling houses, cities and bishoprics – were inserted into the cast cup by the skilled goldsmith in the most artistic manner.
The owner was certainly aware of the rarity of some of the precisely inserted coins at the time of the cup’s creation: some of the coins were already two hundred years old when the cup was made, and many of them had long since been melted down due to the turmoil of war.
Thus, the Constance thaler with the inscription DER STAT COSTANTZ MVINTZ 1538 is one of the first and only minted Constance coins, which due to the influence of the Reformation, have a German language coin inscription.
The first type of thaler of the Halberstadt cathedral chapter with the inscription S-STEFFANVS PROTO MARTYR, minted in 1615-1617 under the mint-master Henning Schreiber, was considered to be “documented only by mint records” until a coin from 1617 recently turned up as a unique specimen in the art trade.
Other coins with portraits of members of the European high nobility, decorate the wall and lid of the finely crafted cup: Among them portraits of several emperors of the HRR, King Louis XV of France, kings of Prussia, Poland, Hungary, Bohemia Croatia, Archdukes of Austria, the Dukes of Brunswick-Lüneburg, Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld and the portrait of the Grand Duke of Lithuania and the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg, are represented on the cup as well as city coins from Constance and Metz and the Swiss cities of Chur, Basel and Zurich.
The so-called “Salvatortaler” from 1632 with the portrait of the Swedish king GVSTAVUS ADOLPH D G REX SVECORVM, as well as the inscription SALVATOR MVNDI SALVANOS M DC XXX II, was embedded in the bottom of the coin cup – a coin that was considered an amulet coin and whose well-preserved specimens are sought after today.
The goldsmith’s mastery of craftsmanship and attention to detail is evident not only in the precise fitting of the coins. Finely chased and engraved tendrils, blossoms and bouquets rise in low relief against an elaborately punched background. Effective partial gilding highlights the fine ornamentation of the blossoms as well as the coins left in silver.
While the high-quality interior gilding of the coin cup served primarily functional purposes, the gilding on the stand ring, lip rim, lid rim and pommel of the cup, was used by the goldsmith primarily to horizontally structure and emphasize the decoration.
The origin of the cup could not yet be conclusively clarified due to the missing city mark and unresolved master mark: Numerous 17th and 18th-century coin cups and coin steins with inset coins and elaborate floral decoration were made in Berlin, Breslau, Königsberg and the Baltics.
In East Prussia, especially in the 18th century, the combination of stamping year letters and masters’ marks was widespread.
On the other hand, the conical shape of the cup with a lid, crowned with a spherical knob and the floral decoration, rather suggests the origin of the cup in the Baltic States, especially in Riga. As Annelore Leistikow writes, in Riga, especially in the second half of the 18th century, “the decoration with coins and medals known from Prussia was adopted on the wall of the cups”.
The Baltic countries may also be referred to by the special placement of the salver portal at the bottom of the cup. In the lid of a coin hump by Michael Röhl from Mittau, made between 1680-1720, a coin of Gustav Adolph from 1632 was also embedded in a representative place, surrounded by floral motifs.
The extension of the general privilege and Güldebrief of the goldsmiths’ trade, issued in Berlin in 1735, from Prussia and East Prussia to the entire cities of the Lithuanian Department on May 14, 1770, made it easier for wandering journeymen and goldsmiths to work far from Berlin and West Prussia. They also encouraged the further spread of artistic influences and decorative forms.
Quite apart from the mounting of the coins, the delicate, finely crafted blossoms, tendrils and ornamental forms that present the centuries-old coins of the passionate collector in a sensitive but effective manner had to be chased, punched, chased, gilded and polished by the specialized goldsmith of the 18th century in months of manual labour – an effort that is inconceivable to us today.
Czihak, Eugen von: Die Edelschmiedekunst früher Zeiten in Preußen, 1. part, general, Königsberg und Ostpreußen, Leipzig 1903, p. 30f.
Leistikow, Annelore: Baltic silver, Institut Nordostdeutsches Kulturwerk, Lüneburg 1996, esp. pp. 107,112-119, 131, 134, 141-143
Pechstein, Klaus: Breslauer Goldschmiede, in: Deutsche Kunst aus dem Osten, cat. Ausst. Berlin 1989, pp. 31-40
Rosenberg, Marc: Der Goldschmiede Merkzeichen, Germany A-C, Vol. 1 Frankfurt 1922, pp. 252-264 (on Berlin)
Scheffler, Wolfgang: Berlin goldsmiths, data, works, signs, Berlin,1968