The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
Low Countries (façon de Venise) or possibly Venice
  • Tazza (trick-glass)
  • Low Countries (façon de Venise) or possibly Venice
  • Unknown Artist / Maker
  • Venice, Italy
  • c. 1575 - c. 1600
  • Colourless glass with greyish tinge; mould-blown, applied and tooled features; gilding.
  • Height: 17.5 cm
    Diameter: 17.1 cm
  • C532
  • Sixteenth Century Gallery
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • This unusual shallow-bowled glass, known as a tazza, appears difficult to drink from, but there is a trick to it. The lion in the centre of the bowl is in fact hollow, and, though now broke at the top, his spiral tail once served as a straw. A small hole under the lion's forequarters allowed the drinker to draw liquid up through the body and the tail. This tazza appears to be a unique survival of a trick-glass in this style made in Venice, or in the Venetian style, in the late sixteenth century. Datable tazze in various materials with stylistic features in common with C532 indicate that this glass was made in the last quarter of the sixteenth century, while C532 has manufacturing features in common with a tazza in the British Museum attributed to Antwerp and other glasses with a close kinship to it, suggesting an attribution to the Low Countries or possibly Venice.
    The production of such a complex glass required speed and precision. This tazza was fashioned in three steps: first the lion was made and placed 'on hold' in an annealing oven; then the vessel was made; finally, in a dexterous and skilled manoeuvre, the lion was attached to the vessel.
    A number of zoomorphic glass drinking vessels survive from the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Perhaps the lion, a symbol of power and prestige, served as a reminder to guests of the status and aspirations in their hosts.
    Water games and jokes were a feature of Italian Renaissance dining culture from the fifteenth century. Ceramic puzzle cups surviving from the fifteenth century, including C23 in the Wallace Collection, show that trick drinking vessels were already popular in Italy by that time. By the later sixteenth century the combination of dining and water jokes had become an essential feature of Italian villa entertainment.