The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
  • Goblet
  • Unknown Artist / Maker
  • France (façon de Venise)
  • mid-16th century
  • Colourless glass with pinkish-grey tinge; mould-blown, applied and tooled features; enamelled in white, ochre, cornflower blue, olive green, brownish-red, black and brown, with red details; gilding.
  • Height: 22.4 cm
    Diameter: 14 cm
  • Inscription: 'INRI'
    Inscription: 'SINE ME NICHIL'
  • C518
  • Sixteenth Century Gallery
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • This elaborately decorated goblet is an outstanding example of the idiosyncratic enamelled and gilded glasses being produced in France around the mid-16th century. Probably made by immigrant Italian glass-makers working near Paris, it is one of a relatively small group of prestigious glasses that have unusual forms and a distinctive style of enamelled and gilt decoration that is inspired by, but differs from, that on Venetian glasses.

    Although chalice-shaped and enamelled with the Crucifixion on its foot, C518 is unlikely to have been used during church services. Owing to the fragility of the material, the use of glass chalices for the Eucharist was banned from the ninth century. Perhaps the inscriptions referring to Christ on this goblet, ‘INRI’ (an abbreviation of the Latin phrase meaning ‘Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews’) and ‘Sine me nihil’ (Latin, meaning ‘without me nothing’), were intended to protect the drinker, since the use of Christ’s name to ward off evil is well documented at this period. Other elements of the decoration may have been incorporated for their Christian significance. The half marguerites (ox-eye daisies) incised into the gilt band below the rim may be intended to refer to the marguerite as a symbol of Christ’s blood and the Virgin’s tears. The snakes descending to the base of the bowl could refer to the miracle of the bronze serpent (Old Testament, Numbers 21:6-9), for which the New Testament provides a parallel (John, 3:14), ‘As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up.’ Alternatively, the snakes may refer to the serpent that tempted Eve before the Fall, from which humanity was to be redeemed by Christ’s Crucifixion. Either meaning would be appropriate to a drinking vessel decorated with the Crucifixion.