The Goblet of Philip the Good. Precious Vessels at the Court of Burgundy

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The Goblet of Philip the Good. Precious Vessels at the Court of Burgundy

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Title: The Goblet of Philip the Good. Precious Vessels at the Court of Burgundy
Author: Helfenstein, Eva
Citation: Helfenstein, Eva. 2012. The Goblet of Philip the Good. Precious Vessels at the Court of Burgundy. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
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Abstract: Vessels made of precious materials such as gold, silver and hardstone once filled the treasuries of late medieval rulers and were counted among their most valuable and representative possessions. Only a minimal fraction survived until today; the large majority went to the melting pot. The Burgundian Court Goblet (Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum), a rock-crystal cup set in gold and adorned with gemstones, is one of the rare surviving examples of a precious vessel from a fifteenth-century secular context. It also happens to be the most elaborate crystal vessel listed in the Inventory of Philip the Good, duke of Burgundy (1419-1467). My dissertation provides the first in-depth study of the object, using the concept of the iconography of materials to elucidate the meaning conferred through the choice of materials and the exquisite level of workmanship. I argue that the Burgundian Court Goblet is a prime example for a group of artworks in the form of vessels, which were made for display and functioned as means of representation and status symbols. By combining evidence from the analysis of objects, written documents and visual sources, it is possible to reconstruct the use of precious vessels in the service of the table and as objects of display arranged on a tiered display buffet, the dressoir. My focus lies on the main types of vessels mentioned in the Inventory of Philip the Good. Based on the terminology used in the inventory, I reconstruct the different categories of precious vessels, their form, use and function. Detailed sources relating to the ceremonial of the Burgundian court dring the fifteenth century, such as the Honneurs de la Cour by Eleonore de Poitiers and the Estat de la maison de Bourgogne, written by the steward Olivier de la Marche, allow to trace the practical and symbolic use of vessels. By bringing together a large array of objects, visual sources and texts relating to the use and function of precious vessels in a secular context, my work provides a much needed study of a group of objects which enjoyed a highly privileged status in their time.
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