Liturgical spoon

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Early 17th century
22 cm

J. van Trigt, From Gothic to Art Deco - The J. Hollander Collection, Antwerpen 1999, p. 107.

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This remarkable German spoon is a liturgical spoon that was used in the celebration of the Eucharist. The spoon was used to distribute wine and bread to the congregation, without losing any crumbs or drops. The richly decorated spoon has a finely carved handle and bowl. In the centre of the bowl, God the Father is seen with outstretched arms and a halo, seated on the clouds of heaven. To his left and right are two winged angels with trumpets. Below the clouds are two groups of people with, in between, an angel holding a cross. The two groups are judged by God the Father and assigned to heaven and hell. His right hand, with an olive branch next to it, directs one half towards heaven and the clouds; his left hand, with a sword next to it, points the other half towards hell and the flames. The group of people being led to hell is driven by a devil with a whip, wings and horns. Along the inner edge of the spoon is the inscription: 'O IESU HILF SUR SELBEN SEIT VON WEGEN / DEINER WUNDEN'.

On the back of the bowl, four angels are depicted, each holding an Instrument of the Passion. These tools, also known as Arma Christi, are a number of objects related to the torture of Christ. The angel on the left is holding a hammer and nails, the angel above him is holding a whip, the angel beside that a cane and the angel on the right a spear. The angels are sitting and leaning on a curling, decorative element, in the same style as the crossbeam of the cross. Beneath them, Christ is depicted on the cross, with outstretched arms, crown of thorns and loincloth. Above Christ's head is the inscription INRI. At the front of the handle, two putti standing next to each other, are each holding a wine chalice, in which the blood of the crucified Christ is collected. Below these two figures is a bearded man with his head on his hand, sunk in contemplation. At the back of the man, under the cross of Christ, hangs a bunch of grapes. At the bottom of the handle, inverted in relation to the man above it, is a sad figure, dressed in a cloak and half veil. This could represent a weeping Virgin Mary.  

The entire spoon is dedicated to the Eucharist: the suffering and death of Christ, as well as the wine, in chalice and as a bunch of grapes, and the approaching judgment of God at the end of time are depicted. The spoon thus not only serves as a liturgical object, but also calls the recipient to contemplation.  

The sentence on the inside of the spoon comes from the fifth verse of a hymn by Bartholomäus Ringwaldt, written in 1586. Ringwaldt was a Lutheran minister from Germany and wrote the song 'Es ist gewißlich an der Zeit' in the expectation of a soon return of Christ. The phrase 'O Jesu, hilf zur selben Zeit, Von wegen deiner Wunden' could be translated as 'O Jesus, help me then in time, for the sake of your wounds'.  

A number of similar spoons are known, mostly from the seventeenth century and made in Germany. (See Victoria and Albert Museum, London (inv. no. 2142-1855), The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (inv. no. 64.101.1608), Dithmarschenn Landesmuseum, Meldorf (inv. no. DLM 895) and the J. Hollander Collection (inv. no. 769). Some of these spoons have a clear liturgical function, others were given as wedding or occasion spoons. Overlap in style and figures suggests that these spoons were possibly made in the same workshop. 


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