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Goldsmith’s Art

Screech owl goblet

Key data

Jakob Christoph Mentzinger, Basle, ca. 1600

Silver, cast, embossed, chased, punched, engraved, parcel gilt, height 20.7 cm

Inv. 1914.597.


Among the different types of drinking vessel in the shape of an animal, silver owl or screech owl goblets form an outstanding group. The Museum has two such cups. The oldest known wooden vessel in the shape of an owl is recorded in a Basle inventory of 1548. The representation of the bird sitting on a perch with bells tied to its feet refers to its role as a decoy in hawking and, in analogy, could be understood as a lure to drunkenness. Additionally, the special characteristics of owls gave rise to a wide range of allegorical interpretations, which were often explained in inscriptions on such vessels. The Basle goldsmith Jakob Christoph Mentzinger (1562-1637), who had been in Neuenburg am Rhein from 1587, returned to his native town in 1601. Around 1606 he entered Swedish, and later Venetian, military service, and the Museum has a portrait of 1606 showing him as an officer in the Polish army.

Selection of similar objects


Basel Historical Museum
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Steinenberg 4
PO box
CH – 4001 Basel

Reception: +41 61 205 86 00

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