waxantiques

17th Century Silver Skull Pomander

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Stock: 10381

Date: Circa 1650

Country: Germany

A fascinating piece of early silver steeped in history and symbolism. Modelled in the form of a skull, this early...

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Description

Description

A fascinating piece of early silver steeped in history and symbolism. Modelled in the form of a skull, this early German silver pomander has a segmented interior to contain fragrant spices. Originally a talisman to ward off sickness and noxious odours, this exquisite item of jewellery could be worn round the neck or suspended from a belt. The skull opens into 2 hinged compartments, one side divided into 6 segments beneath a gilded cover engraved with spice names – Citron, Rosmarin, Rosen, Citron, Schlag, Canel, Negeln, the other side to contain a sponge soaked in the perfumed oils/spices. The screw post, on a later chain, holds the piece tightly together.

Weight 31g, 1 troy oz.
Height 3/2.2cm. Spread 4cm open, 3.1cm closed.
Probably German.
Circa 1600-20.
Unmarked silver.
A very charming and tactile piece.

Marks. The pomander is made of unmarked silver, which is quite usual for a small article of this date. Assay scrape to the underside of the compartment cover.

Provenance: J Parkes, London, 16th April 1957. There is a similar example in the British Museum no. 1978,1002.162.

Literature. The Pomander scent carrier, with chambers for the herbs and spices, was popular in England and the continent during the 16th and 17th centuries. Intended to protect the wearer from sickness, it was designed to be worn around the neck or waist on a rope by wealthy aristocrats. Skull jewellery known as “memento mori”, drenched in rich symbolism embodying the transience of human life, was one of many vanity symbols popular at that time in high society.

Condition

This delightful little collector’s item is in very good condition. The gilding to the cover is original. The screw post is fully functional. The chain has been added later.

Maker Information

No maker assigned

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