Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Aldrevandin Beaker

In the British Museum collection, there is a beautiful vessel from the end of the 13th century called the 'Aldrevandini Beaker'.
photo: British Museum

It's a blown glass beaker with enameled decoration, and an inscription that tells us who the maker was, a master called Aldrevandin. The enameled inscription on the vessel reads: "MAGISTER ALDREVANDIN ME FECI", and translates to "Master Aldrevandin Made Me". It's not often that a glass item is actually 'signed' by it's maker!

What's really interesting about this piece is that the enameling is done both inside and outside the vessel, as opposed to just the outside. There was discussion among historians, too, as to its origin, seeing as how many Syrian and Islamic vessels are also enameled very richly, and this one was found in Europe. Ultimately, three points allowed historians to determine that the vessel was made in Venice -- the shape is not the same as Syrian or Islamic beakers, this being more straight-sided than those typically made in the medieval Islamic world, the enameling is done on interior and exterior surfaces, as opposed to just the exterior, and the enamels used included yellow, instead of gold, enamel. Syrian and Islamic vessels were enameled with gold, only on exterior surfaces, and were typically shaped with a taper from the base to the rim.

Additional fragments of vessels such as this one were found in Europe, which allowed historians to conclude that this vessel was most likely not made in the Islamic region, but in Venice. At the time of this vessel, the Venetians did possess the knowledge and skill to make beakers such as this one.

In a future post, I'll write about what I've learned about how this vessel was likely made.

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