FRIESS, Joachim
(b. ca 1579, Lübeck, d. 1620, Augsburg)

Clockwork Drinking Vessel

Silver, 34 x 24 cm
Liechtenstein Museum, Vienna

This drinking vessel with Diana mounted on a stag was made of silver, cast, embossed, chased, engraved parcel-gilt, partial coloured cold-enamel decoration fully functional original spring-driven mechanism.

This sculpture is not only a masterpiece of the goldsmith's art but also an ingenious object of stately display and courtly banqueting ceremonial: it belongs to a group of automata featuring Diana, goddess of the chase, the bases of which concealed a clockwork mechanism that propelled the object across the dining table in a series of controlled movements. The guest in front of whom it came to a stop would then have to lift the stag with its rider from the base, remove the head of the animal with its antlers and drink from its body. As long as the animal's body was still full, it was still relatively easy to drink from it, but the emptier it became, the greater the risk of spilling the remaining contents over one's face and clothing - to the amusement of one's dining companions.

The 'invention' of the composition of Diana mounted on a stag is attributed to the Augsburg goldsmith Matthias Walbaum (b. ca. 1555), master goldsmith in Augsburg, who produced the first examples of such groups around the turn of the 17th century. Jakob I. Miller (c. 1550-1618), and Joachim Fries produced their own variations of this type from around 1610 in Augsburg.