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16th C. European Brass Alms Plate (from a Church)

Western European, Germany, Belgium, or France, ca. 16th century CE. A beautiful and highly polished hammered brass example of a large alms plate from a European church. A raised central area looks like a flower with splayed petals. Around that is a ring of writing in a gothic font, although unfortunately the edges are too worn to be legible. The flange of the rim is wide, with a rolled edge outlined with a stamped design similar to a fleur-de-lis. Size: 18.45" W x 1.3" H (46.9 cm x 3.3 cm)

In the early 16th century, brass alms dishes had become very wide in diameter, with a wide base and ample room for designs. Abstract central motifs like this one were often surrounded by lettering, but the inscriptions were usually meaningless - just design elements. Many of these plates were produced in Nuremberg, with others produced in Flanders, Bouvignes, and Aachen, but they all shared techniques, making them difficult to assign to a single area of manufacture. When Charles the Bold took the city of Divant in Flanders in 1466, metalworkers fled from there to neighboring areas, spreading this technology and artistic style. These dishes were not just used for alms - or even, depending on location, primarily. Exported to the British Isles, they found their way to churches there as alms plates, but on continental Europe, paintings often show them used as basins for washing hands after a meal. Prior to forks being commonly used in the 17th century, this was a necessary part of the table. See a very similar example in the Victoria & Albert Museum.

Condition: Wear to design.

Provenance: private Los Angeles County, California, USA collection

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