The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
Pilgrim Flask
  • Pilgrim Flask
  • Unknown Artist / Maker
  • Venice
  • Second half of the 16th century
  • The matrix of the vessel walls and foot of 'vetro a retorti' glass with 'lattimo' canes, without a colourless glass liner. Four applied suspension loops in colourless glass with a very slight pinking tinge.
  • Height: 20.1 cm
    Diameter: 11.7 cm
  • C524
  • Sixteenth Century Gallery
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • ‘Pilgrim flasks’ are so named because their form was inspired by the flasks of similar form which, made from less fragile materials such as leather or metal, were used by travellers such as pilgrims. The suspension loops on C524 are purely decorative, but they recall those on travellers’ flasks that would have been threaded with cord or chain for carrying. Glass pilgrim flasks were both decorative and functional. During meals they would be displayed on a tiered buffet and were often used in pairs, for red and white wine or water and wine.
    The decorative pattern` of white ('lattimo') canes on this small flask was created by the 'vetro a filigrana' technique. This technique was first produced in Venice around 1527 and became increasingly widespread towards the middle of the sixteenth century. 'Vetro a filigrana' is the generic term used to describe glass with a pattern of canes either embedded in the glass matrix or fused to a glass liner. Patterns of different types are variously identified. Complex patterns of canes like those on this flask are known as 'vetro a retorti', whereas parallel lines of single canes are known as 'vetro a fili' and a regular mesh pattern of canes as 'vetro a reticello'.
    Owing to the combination of its shape and decoration, this flask is most likely to have been made in Venice in the second half of the sixteenth century. There is no evidence for the production of pilgrim flasks in 'vetro a filigrana' glass beyond Venice. This flask may well have been made in the third quarter of the century, since towards the end of the sixteenth-century vessels in 'vetro a filigrana' glass with mould-blown features became more popular.