A German silver-gilt model of a tripping stag, Christoph Erhart, Augsburg, circa 1600
- 28cm, 11in high
Baron Lionel de Rothschild (1807-1879)
Alfred de Rothschild, Halton House Buckinghamshire (1842-1918)
Edmund de Rothschild CBE, TD (1916-2009)
Charles Davis, A description of the works of art forming the collection of Alfred de Rothschild, London, 1884, no. 367
Helmut Seling, Die Augsburger Gold-und Silverschmiede 1529-1868, Munich 2007, no 763
Hugh Tait, Catalogue of the Waddesdon Bequest in the British Museum, vol. II, The Silver Plate, London, 1988, nos. 19 and 20
The gift to the British Museum made by Baron Lionel de Rothschild's first cousin once removed and son-in-law Baron Ferdinand, known as the Waddesdon bequest, includes two stags by this goldsmith, one of which is in identical pose. Another example, springing but otherwise displaying the same distinct characteristics of rounded body, tooled chest pelt, open mouth without teeth and densely tooled base was formerly on loan to the Victoria & Albert museum (1976-88) as property of the British Rail Pension Fund and sold Sotheby's Geneva, 14 Nov 1988, lot 56 (fig. 2).
In the 16th and 17th century German world, drinking cups were made in the form of different types of animal. There were many reasons why an animal might be chosen over a beaker or a tankard. It might represent a guild like an ox for the butchers, or an owl mobbed by birds for a shooting prize, an armorial bearing, an attribute of character or a pun on someone's name like Strauss or Hirsch. These cups naturally represented a store of wealth, and could be sold if essential but they were also part of social life, loved and imbued with character by the people who used them. The detachable head was no convention as these models were meant to be used. A 17th century Bernese cup in the form of a lion, bought in the 1860's by Baron Lionel de Rothschild's brother Meyer Amschel (1818-74) provides a good example (fig. 3). This animal representing the lion of Nassau was given in 1690 to an influential Bernese organisation by William of Nassau, King William III of Great Britain as an incentive for their help. The lion cup and another in the form of an owl are recorded in use in 1801 following the annual shooting competition of the Berne Bogenschützengesellschaft who had recently bought the cups from their original owners. Having crowned the winning archer who was referred to as `Your Majesty' for the evening the members sat down to dinner at a table dressed with the recently acquired silver and (in translation)
`..joyously the cups of fine wine made the rounds. Of the many toasts, one in particular is remembered. It was proposed to England, that nation of faith and belief, and drunk from the wonderful cup that King William III gave...singing and clanging resounded until midnight when we left for home...as best we could. Governor Graf emptied the King William (as the lion cup was known) nine times and Carl von Graffenried von Burgenstein drained his minister as we called the owl..in one go'.
Meyer Amschel Rothschild also bought the owl. See: Sotheby's London, Magnificent Silver-gilt, Objects of Vertu and Miniatures from the Rothschild and Rosebery collection, Mentmore, 11 February 1999, lot 44.