Tiedemann, Klaus: Nuremberg Alms Dishes

Product no.: 978-3-89754-523-6
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Second, enlarged edition. 180 pages. Hardcover (thread stitched). Language: German/English

Despite their enduring appeal, old brass alms dishes, manufactured in, and exported in large numbers from the Imperial City of Nuremberg between ca. 1450 and 1560 are still largely unexplored. This beautifully illustrated book remedies that omission. It describes every aspect of their purpose, production and decoration.

Their purpose and function was primarily secular. In the homes of wealthy patricians they were often used in conjunction with ewers for washing hands after meals, as decorative display showpieces on furniture or walls, and sometimes as reflectors behind candle-lit sconces. Some larger basins served as baptismal fonts. Although the dishes are widely called alms dishes and often presumed to have been used in churches, this was not their original function.

The present volume is more comprehensive than the earlier studies of Hermann P. Lockner or Tamás Egyeki-Szabó and has a bilingual text. It documents more than 160 motifs and demonstrates that Nuremberg was the sole place of origin for all those old brass dishes/bowls/basins whose embossed relief in the well was made on female steel dies. It exemplifies specific steps of the manufacture such as the shaping of the moulding blank by metal spinning on a lathe.

The development of the motifs and 40 different bands of text are depicted and described. In addition, 20 bands of flowers and foliage are documented, and more than 100 stamped ornaments are listed. The employment of X-ray diffraction technology on the alloy used in more than 70 dishes provides vital data for the detection of forgeries.

The motifs serving as models for the artwork on alms dishes can be found on woodcuts, engravings, and occasionally on paintings of the period, the earliest dating from 1450. Other late Gothic ones were made before 1467 by the master “ES“; one of the inventors of the copper engraving technique. Models for Renaissance artwork came from Nuremberg masters of the circle around Albrecht Dürer, e. g. Hans Schäufelein, Hans Georg Beham and Georg Pencz.

The book also covers subjects such as contemporary repair, original suspension eyes, and the use of additional decoration by associated enamel roundels. The distinctions between old Dutch alms dishes and those from Nuremberg are also explained. An additonal chapter on Flemish alms dishes shows their unique specifications, also compared to Dutch alms dishes. A richly illustrated chapter on the detection of imitations and forgeries which represent up to a quarter of seemingly old alms dishes offered on the market in the present days provides invaluable help to collectors and dealers alike.

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