Categories
Art Curatorial

From the Collection—German Renaissance Mirror

In the manner of David Altenstetter Augsburg, Germany, d. 1617. Mirror, ca. 1600. Enamel, silver, and gilt. Milwaukee Art Museum, Purchase, with funds from Avis Martin Heller in honor of the Fine Arts Society. Photo credit John R. Glembin
In the manner of David Altenstetter Augsburg, Germany, d. 1617. Mirror, ca. 1600. Enamel, silver, and gilt. Milwaukee Art Museum, Purchase, with funds from Avis Martin Heller in honor of the Fine Arts Society. Photo credit John R. Glembin.

Late last year, the Milwaukee Art Museum acquired a truly one-of-a-kind object: a Renaissance mirror that is on display in Gallery #2.

Created around 1600 in the metalworking center of Augsburg, Germany, it demonstrates the technical skill and fantastic design indicative of the region. The mount includes cherubs, mythological figures, and foliate designs that masterfully come together in one fabulous whole.  These decorative elements are most likely based upon contemporary books published by German artists, which in turn are Renaissance in style because they draw inspiration from antiquity.

In particular, the basse-taille technique (when colored glass fills a pattern engraved or carved into the metal), which is used on the inner frame, makes this mirror a rare object.  This high-quality version of the enamel was pioneered by the Augsburg goldsmith David Altenstetter (ca. 1547-1617).  Only a handful of objects in museums world-wide incorporate this type of enamel-work, which puts the Museum in the company of institutions such as the Wallace Collection in London and the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.