Ivory beaker with cover

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Saxony, Germany
17th century
17.5 cm
8 cm

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During the Renaissance and Baroque periods, the technique of turning on a lathe advanced significantly, particularly in French, Italian, and Central European workshops. Artisans were able to create intricately hollowed-out shapes from single blocks of ivory, some as thin as paper. Turning became a favored pastime among clergy and nobility alike. Several rulers, including Holy Roman Emperors Maximilian II (reigned 1564–1576), Rudolf II (reigned 1576–1612), and Ferdinand III (reigned 1619–1637), amassed collections of turned masterpieces for their Kunstkammern (art cabinets) and even practiced the art themselves.
While carrying on a tradition established during the Renaissance of crafting ivory artworks, these cups and covers from the 17th century highlight the inherent value of ivory as a remarkable material capable of being transformed into technically intricate, compelling, and one-of-a-kind collector's items.


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