Priming Flask Made for Prince-Elector August I of Saxony (ruled 1553–86)

Date: ca. 1575

Geography: probably Saxony

Culture: German, probably Saxony

Medium: Iron, gold, silk

Dimensions: H. 5 1/6 in. (13.5 cm); Diam. 3 1/2 in. (9 cm); Wt. 9 oz. (258 g)

Classification: Firearms Accessories-Flasks & Primers

Credit Line: Gift of Bernice and Jerome Zwanger, 2008

Accession Number: 2008.638.1


Hunting equipment made for the Saxon court was among the most splendid in Europe. No exception, this powder flask is a virtuoso masterpiece of Renaissance iron chiseling fully in keeping with the sophisticated tastes of its owner, Prince-Elector August I of Saxony (r. 1553–86), founder of the Dresden Kunstkammer. The flask's body is embossed in high relief with five medallions. The scene in the center medallion, representing Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac, is based on a woodcut illustration by Jost Amman in a Bible published in Frankfurt in 1572. The surrounding medallions enclose the arms of Saxony and of Denmark, the AA monogram of August and his wife, Anna of Denmark, and crossed swords, the arms of the archmarshal of the Holy Roman Empire, the exalted post held by the ruling duke of Saxony. Etched on the back of the flask is a pelican in her piety. August collected a number of works in chiseled iron, including rapiers, matching daggers, and at least two other flasks like this one but with different biblical scenes in the center medallions and different etched motifs on the back (one is in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the other in a private collection).