Elaborate silver automata were among the most marvelous works of art in German princely collections. The south German city of Augsburg specialized in such courtly drinking amusements during the seventeenth century. The base of this automaton contained a wind-up mechanism that moved it across the...
Elaborate silver automata were among the most marvelous works of art in German princely collections. The south German city of Augsburg specialized in such courtly drinking amusements during the seventeenth century. The base of this automaton contained a wind-up mechanism that moved it across the table. Once it came to a standstill, the diner closest to it removed the stag's head and drank the wine from the body.
On top of base: marks of Joachim Fries and Augsburg
About 1610-1620, Prince Heinrich the Younger of Reuss, called Posthumus (b. 1572 - d. 1635), Gera, Germany; until 1945, by descent within the family and kept at Osterstein Castle, Gera [see note 1]. 1985, private collection, Gera; 1986, taken by the city of Gera and exhibited at the Museum für Geschichte [see note 2]; subsequently restituted to the princely house of Reuss; sold by the princes of Reuss to Rudigier Gallery, Munich and London; 2004, sold by Rudigier Gallery to the MFA. (Accession Date: September 22, 2004) NOTES:  In 1945 Osterstein Castle was bombed and burned out completely, and the automaton was thought to have been destroyed. However, it resurfaced in 1985 in the hands of a private owner, who is said to have acquired it by inheritance. The automaton may have been among the objects looted from the castle by Soviet troops. See Siegfried Mues, "Wertvolle Kunstschätze an die Museen der Stadt Gera übergeben," Neue Museumskunde 4 (1987): pp. 287-289.  When the automaton was discovered in a private collection, the city took possession of it, the princely house of Reuss having been dispossessed in 1945 by the Soviet Army. In 1987, the museum of Gera displayed it along with other objects thought to have been lost during World War II.
Museum purchase with funds donated anonymously and the William Francis Warden Fund, Frank B. Bemis Fund, Mary S. and Edward Jackson Holmes Fund, John Lowell Gardner Fund, and by exchange from the Bequest of William A. Coolidge
German (Augsburg), about 1610–20
- Marked by Joachim Fries, 1579–1620
Height: 33 cm (13 in.); Width: 24.3 cm (9 9/16 in.); Diam. 25.4 cm (10 in.) Other (Base dimensions): 24.3 x 10.2 cm (9 9/16 x 4 in.)
Medium or Technique
Cast and chased silver, partially gilded and painted with translucent lacquers