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Goldsmith’s Art

Fool's head beaker

Key data

Zurich(?), ca. 1556

Coconut with silver mounts embossed, engraved, parcel gilt, height 10.5 cm

Inv. 1892.183.


The unknown goldsmith made use of the germination points of the coconut and the ridges between them to form a face, and this was completed as a fool or jester's head by the addition of collar, ears and rows of bells. When stood upright on the three large bells, the beaker can be opened with the face forming a lid. The rim of the cup is encircled with a lip band with the inscribed couplet: "Der Lust zum starcken Tranck and Win macht das ich nit kan wizig sin" (The pleasure in strong drink and wine means that I cannot be witty). The inside of the cup is varnished. A single known comparable example, which is dated 1556 and stamped with the Zurich hallmark, indicates the possible place and date of origin of this beaker. For centuries the cup was in the possession of the Hauser family, who had owned the Basle inn Gasthof zur Krone from the C17.

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Basel Historical Museum
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