Lot 5
  • 5

A RARE GERMAN SILVER PARCEL-GILT TRINKSPIEL (DRINKING GAME) CUP, HANS MAULBRUNNER, AUGSBURG, 1614-1616 | A rare German silver parcel-gilt Trinkspiel (drinking game) cup, Hans Maulbrunner, Augsburg, 1614-1616

150,000 - 180,000 EUR
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  • 26,6 x 31, 2 cm, 10 2/3in. x 12 1/3in. ; 702 g., 24oz 76dwt
on three shell-shaped feet with cherubs, the base shaped as a gadrooned cup engraved with bunches of fruit and garlands ending in a funnel, surmounted by a watermill with a Neptune-shaped finial, the upper six-cupola-shaped cup on three feet, engraved with birds and fruit


A. Schollmeier, "Ein münsterisher Goldschmiedpokal mit einer Wassermühle von Hans Stilkindt", in Westfalen und Italien. Festschrift für Karl Noehles, 2002, S. 118
H. Seling, Die Kunster der Augsburger Goldschmiede 1529-1868, Munchen, 1980, vol. III, p. 138, no. 1218 and vol. II, pl. 242, 243
W. Nys, Zilveren wind-watermolenbekers in Europa, circa 1530-1760, Gent, 2012, p. 20
Victoria and Albert Museum, German Domestic Silver 1618-1700, London, 1967, no. 4


In overall very good condition, usual minor scratches commensurates with aged Nice color of guilding Fully marked under the inferior bowl and upper border with assay scrapes Extraordinary piece, very rare Video explaining the game can be seen on our website
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Inspired by the wedding feast at Cana (Gospel according to Saint John, 2,1-11), this drinking game is completed with an elaborate mechanism giving the perfect illusion of turning water into wine. During the 16th and 17th centuries, wine inspired goldsmiths to produce the most unusual objects, such as wedding cups, windmill and watermill beakers.  They competed with each to create the most playful, unusual and ingenious pieces. Of all the types of drinking game cups created, of which the earliest pieces were mentioned at the beginning of the 16th century in the Netherlands and Germany, this type of trinkspiel was certainly the most elaborate version. The trick achieved by the present trinkspiel is perfect and surprises today's viewers as much as it did during the Renaissance. As the host poured water into the upper tank of the trinkspiel, wine flowed through small channels into the lower cup. In the presence of bewildered guests, the water miraculously transformed into wine and flowed down the long channel, activating the wheel of the watermill. The impossible seemed real and this elaborated mechanism, via a sophisticated hydraulic system was responsible for this incredible transformation. Prior to the arrival of the guests, the host filled the upper tank with wine, taking care not to go beyond a certain level so that it remained invisible. When poured, the water put pressure on the level of the wine which rose along small canals hidden inside the central axis. Once the wine reached an invisible overflow at the top of the central axis, it flowed inside and up to the lower section via four small jets (see fig. 3).

Hans Maulbrunner, a goldsmith from Weinheim, was the pupil of Hartmann Maulbrunner - probably his father.  He became master before 1608 and was active until 1634.  A silver-gilt trinkspiel in the shape of a watermill, 1624-1628 also produced by him and very similar to the present piece, though slightly later in date, is in the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, (inv. no. M.183-1956, see fig. 1), and a silver-gilt mounted mounted nautilus ewer and its basin from the prestigious Kunstkammer of King Gustav II Adolf of Sweden is in the University of Uppsala, Sweden. A watercolour by FG Solnzew from the first half of the 19th century, precisely depicts a drinking game comparable with the present piece. Made by Melchior Bair, Augsburg, 1626-1630, it shows the piece from different angles (Kremlin Museum, inv. no. Mz-326, see fig. 2). Other comparable drinking games were produced in Nuremberg, Münster, Lübeck, Vienna and Hermannstadt, the latter now part of Romania.

As one of the masterpieces of a Kunstkammer, our trinkspiel - the earliest known example of this type brings together all the qualities sought by connoisseurs from the Renaissance to the present day, including richness of ornament, technical prowess, scientific curiosity and rarity.