The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
Armorial Pilgrim Flask
  • Armorial Pilgrim Flask
  • Unknown Artist / Maker
  • Venice
  • c. 1523 - 1526
  • Colourless glass with pronounced grey tinge, many small air bubbles and a few small inclusions; applied features; enamelled in white, red, dark blue, yellow, green and black; gilding.
  • Height: 34.9 cm
    Diameter: 19.4 cm
  • C517
  • Sixteenth Century Gallery
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • This sumptuously decorated armorial flask is a fine example of a prestigious Venetian glass made for the German market. It is exceptional both in depicting two different coats of arms represented independently of each other, one on either side, and in being fairly precisely datable. The arms are those of Lichtenstein, as borne by Christof Philipp von Lichtenstein (c. 1495-1547) between 16 August 1523 and 1526, and Rappoltstein or Ribaupierre as borne by Wilhelm von Rappoltstein (1468-1547) of Alsace. Von Rappoltstein was elected a member of the Order of the Golden Fleece in 1516 and the emblem of the Order, a golden fleece, is suspended from his coat of arms. Christof Philipp von Lichtenstein married Wilhelm von Rappoltstein’s daughter, Margarethe (d. 1566), in 1516.
    The Venetian glass trade with Germanic peoples was well established by this time. German families commissioned Venetian glass vessels of various types during the late 15th and early 16th centuries. Several other armorial flasks in this distinctive form, known as a ‘pilgrim flask’, bear German coats of arms.
    ‘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 C517 are purely decorative, but they recall those on travellers’ flasks that would have been threaded with cord or chain for carrying. The interlaced scrolls terminating in stylized foliage on the sides of C517 may be intended to suggest cords with tasselled ends.
    These elaborately adorned flasks were both decorative and functional. Whilst set on a credenza or tiered buffet and used to serve wine or water during formal meals, the luxurious enamelled and gilded vessels demonstrated a host’s good taste, wealth and status.