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Athos Holy Mount

Byzantine Minor Arts
9.38 Chalice
Simonopetra Monastery
Silver gilt
Height 29.2 cm, rim diameter 12.8 cm, base diameter 17.1 cm
Brasov, Transylvania


The Original New Testament

Around the upper edge of the chalice's tapered six-lobed base runs a narrow fillet with a delicate flora motif. Foliate ornaments with pearls and precious stones in flower-like mounts are set into the indents between the lobes. Ornamenting the slender, facetted stem is an embossed knop, with alternating lanceolated leaves and rounded projections framing gemstones in flower-shaped mounts. The gently flaring cup of the chalice has a double row of ornamental bosses, surmounted by a band of elegant palmettes in the late-Gothic style. The inside of the base bears the maker's mark, with the initials MG and a crown.

From the second half of the fifteenth century embossed articles in gold and silver, especially standing cups, were a specialty of the city of Nuremberg, where some of the finest examples of the type were designed by artists like Doerer and crafted by goldsmiths like the Jamnitzers. Displayed as show-pieces, initially in Town Halls and later in the mansions of the affluent, these works were tangible expressions of the wealth and power of a prosperous bourgeoisie. This type of article, and especially the goblets, which were customarily offered as wedding gifts, enjoyed a widespread popularity that not only extended far beyond Germany but also proved extremely long-lasting, with master goldsmiths like Petzolt of Nuremberg, for instance, continuing to produce work in this typical neo-Gothic style until the early decades of the seventeenth century.

The Simonopetra chalice seems to belong to this later trend, although certain features betoken the influence of Transylvanian workshops. The hallmark with the initials MG and the crown indicates that it was made in Brasov some time after 1600, the date when the crown was established as the symbol of that city in the hallmarks used by its silversmiths.

Bibliography: Ikonomaki-Papadopoulos 1991, pp. 164-5, fig. 89.

Y. I.-P.
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