Four Elements

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Object Name: 
Beaker
Title: 
Four Elements
Accession Number: 
2011.3.185
Dimensions: 
Overall H: 11.3 cm, Diam (max): 8.9 cm
Location: 
Not on Display
Date: 
1739
Web Description: 
The exterior of this beaker is decorated with elaborately engraved medallions depicting the four elements. The medallions surround a central panel with a crown inscribed with the monogram “GFS,” set above the date “1739” and a heart. This vessel was a special commission for an unidentified individual. The allegorical depictions are more commonly found in Baroque painting and decorative arts, while the monogram and the date personalize the beaker. The four elements are shown as figural representations: one winged putto attending a fire, another holding a wind wheel and observing the clouds (air), a third framed by a cornucopia and a basket filled with flowers and fruits grown in the soil (earth), and a fourth filling two elegant vessels with water. The four elements have been known in Western philosophy since ancient times. During the Renaissance and Baroque periods, literary descriptions and painted, engraved, and printed depictions became more common. Allegorical emblems use the elements to describe both the riches of nature (e.g., water to grow food) and mankind’s power over nature (e.g., fire controlled and exploited to forge metals). Consequently, a rich variety of illustrations of the elements (as well as of the four seasons, the four then-known continents, and the four liberal arts) decorated artifacts and buildings, and appeared in political propaganda. The literate middle class and aristocracy were accustomed to interpreting and understanding allegories, and they would easily have recognized these depictions.
Department: 
Provenance: 
Im Kinsky Kunst Auktionen, Source
2011-12-21
Color: 
Material: 
Inscription: 
1739
date
Engraved between monogram and heart
Fpupp Lufff Erde Soaffer
inscription
Engraved above each element medallion
GF.S.
monogram
Engraved inside crown
Primary Description: 
Colorless glass; blown, engraved. Cylindrical beaker widening slightly towards rim. Exterior of vessel decorated with elaborate engraving, including four medallions showing figurative representations of the four elements, a crown with monogram "GFS" set above the date "1739" and a heart. Engraved garlands and flowers overall.
The Corning Museum of Glass: Notable Acquisitions 2011 (2012) illustrated, pp. 16-17; BIB# AI87745