Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Cup with cover

Hans van Amsterdam (recorded 1535–65)
Dutch, 's-Hertogenbosch
Silver gilt, coconut shell
Overall: 10 7/8 × 3 7/8 in. (27.6 × 9.8 cm)
Metalwork-Silver In Combination
Credit Line:
Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917
Accession Number:
17.190.622a, b
Not on view
The exotic coconut, or "Indian nut" as it is called in Renaissance inventories, had been collected and displayed as an object of "miraculous powers" in the treasuries of pagan temples since Greek and Roman antiquity. These could be seen as predecessors of medieval church treasuries and later secular Kunstkammer and Wunderkammer. The coconut's curious form and obscure origin in faraway lands supported the idea of using the odd shell of the nut as a medicinal antidote. For instance, poisoned wine could be neutralized by drinking it from a coconut used as a cup, such as the example illustrated here. The carvings on this cup represent heroic themes from the Old Testament: Lot and his daughters, Samson and the Lion, and David with Bathsheba. All are mounted in silver gilt and decorated with grotesque herm figures, masks, and fruits. Latin inscriptions warn of the excessive appreciation of wine. Similar cup designs were popularized north of the alpine mountains in prints by Albrecht Altdorfer, Hans Brosamer, and Hieronymus Hopfer, among many others.
Inscription: Around coconut: [1] GENESIS:C:19 (Lot and his daughters); [2] IVDICVM C:14 (Samson and the Lion); [3] 2 Regum Cap II (David and Bathsheba)

On edge of cover: (inscription in Greek Letters ?) [trans.: Often in floods of wine a man is wrecked]

Below lip: POCVLA SVME / FLVET MELIVS POST POCVLA SERMO [trans.: quaff your cups; after cups speech flows more readily]

On rim of foot: IMMODIC[us] LAEDIT CEV DIRA CICVTA LVAEVS NON FACIT AD LONGAM CRAPVLA MVLTA DIEM [trans.: wine immoderately drunk is harmful as the deadly hemlock; frequent surfeit makes not for long life]

Marking: Struck On foot:
[1] ...(?) with crown on top ('s-Hertogenbosch town mark, beginning 1503/4);
[2] ....(date letter "g", 1533/34);
[3] Stylized star flame (?): (maker's mark of Hans van Amsterdam, recorded 1535–65)

Engraved under foot: 14 omin Z (weight of piece?)
Karl Thewalt (by 1902–1903; his sale, Kunsthaus Lempertz, Cologne, November 4–14, 1903, no. 802); J. Pierpont Morgan , London and New York (until 1917; to MMA)
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