(b. ca. 1507, Wien, d. 1585, Nürnberg)

Mother Earth (or Merkel) table decoration

Silver-gilt and polychromed enamel, height 100 cm
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Jamnitzer, Germany's foremost Renaissance goldsmith, included intricate castings on elaborate silver chests, writing cabinets, cups, and other sumptuous objects destined for the collections of princes and wealthy patrons. His skills are exhibited in his Mother Earth table decoration, commissioned by Nuremberg's city council. Although intended as an elaborate civic gift, the council kept it instead for its own pleasure. This was a conversation piece. Exhibited at special ceremonies and banquets, it was intended to be admired and closely scrutinized, rather than used practically as a fruit serving vessel.

The elegant figure of Earth, labelled the Mater Omnium (mother of all), supports the table decoration. She stands amid the bounty of nature. Small cast-silver grasses, lizards, newts and other tiny creations fill the hillock around her feet. Earth bears a large basin adorned with hanging putti, flowers, foliage, scrolls and strapwork. Lobsters, frogs, snakes and turtles dwell within the basin. The table decoration culminates in an enamel vase resting on there half-length female nudes.

The table decoration is an allegory of Earth's fecundity.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.