A rare silver spice box
Rectangular, the smooth body with a double rim at the bottom, the lid with a protruding lower edge…
The front finely engraved with a cartouche containing the personification of Love, flanked on both sides by family coats of arms, and the other side also engraved with cartouches containing the personifications of the seven virtues, namely Hope, Faith, Patience, Strength, Justice, Moderation, and Prudence. The semi-circular lid is engraved with the marriage emblem of a burning heart above two entwined hands, under which is a skull in a rosette, surrounded by scrolling foliage, flowers, and birds. The sides of the lid are engraved with cherubs, and on top of the lid, there is a scrolling and hinged handle, all standing on four spherical feet. With a later inscription on the underside: For my Son George Downing Bowles, Student of Christ Church, Oxford, 17 Aug. 1847
Bockema Sipckes Rispens
The casket must pertain to a male member of the Bockema family (coat of arms: three pig’s heads) who entered into matrimony with a female member of the Rispens family (coat of arms: a double-headed eagle accompanied by a crown of thorns).
This unquestionably leads to one couple: Dirck Douwes Bockema and Tyets Sipckes Rispens, who married before May 26, 1590.
Dirck, originating from the ‘Bockemasate’ under Minnertsga and first mentioned in 1587, was a son of Douwe Piers Bockema and Bauck Dirks Fogelsangh; the family of his mother bore (as mentioned under coat of arms 2) a swan on a grassy ground in their coat of arms. Tyets was a daughter of Sipcke Ulbes Rispens and Jisck Aysma; the Aysma family bore (as mentioned under coat of arms 4) a lion in their coat of arms. (Literature: Kees P. de Boer, Rispens, de neiteam fan âlde Ulbet in: Genealogysk Jierboek 2013, page 167-210, for the Bockema-Rispens couple, see page 179.) On both the groom’s and bride’s side, the names of the parents entirely match, including the order, with the four coats of arms depicted on this casket.
In fortunate 17th-century families, it was customary for the groom to present his bride with a marriage casket or chest. This tradition dates back to earlier times when the bride’s father received gifts from his daughters’ suitors. In Roman times, a cauldron and shields were offered. Later, on the occasion of a proposed marriage, coins were given as gifts. Initially, the bride’s father benefited from this Frisian law. After the law was amended, the tradition of giving a sum of money was transferred to the bride, who received a so-called knotted cloth, a beautiful cloth with a quantity of coins tied into it. When the bride tightened the knot in the cloth, it signified her acceptance of the proposal and confirmed her engagement. Valuable marriage caskets, made of finely engraved silver and featuring scenes related to matrimony, served the same purpose as the knotted cloth, but were primarily found in higher, more affluent circles. Such marriage caskets were made not only in Friesland but also in West Friesland and the northern part of the province of Holland.
Drawings and prints by renowned artists served as the main source for the engravings on such caskets. Most moralizing subjects originated from the Bible or mythology; thus, Michel Le Blon’s engravings were published by lutenist and composer Nicolas Verlet in Secretum Musarum in Amsterdam in 1615. Jan Janssen’s engravings were published by Claes Jansz. Visscher in Amsterdam around 1630. Other engravers whose work was copied in silver included Nicolaes de Bruyn (1571-1656) and Jacques Callot (1592-1635).
Van der Lely
Silver objects marked only with a maker’s mark were usually produced in Friesland. Apparently, a silversmith was allowed to strike his mark only when he had paid his guild dues. Unfortunately, it’s not always possible to identify such a single mark. The mark in the form of a French lily can be attributed to the Leeuwarden families Douwes and Van der Lely. According to the guild register, Claes Douwes began using a lily as his mark at the end of the 16th century. Unfortunately, no pieces made by him have survived. During his first marriage, to Saeck Obbedr., a daughter and two sons were born, one of whom was Obbe Cla(e)sen, born in 1578. This Obbe Cla(e)sen registered his mark in the Leeuwarden guild in 1611. Like his father, he was a wealthy man and often lent money to other members of the respectable bourgeoisie there. Only a few of his pieces have been preserved, including a spoon and two cups; these are published in the exhibition catalog Lelie in Zilver, Van der Lelie, master silversmiths in Leeuwarden, 1989 (see Lit.). One of the mentioned cups is engraved with the text “Benne Tamminga/Trintie Tiepkes” and other fine engraving work and can be compared to the engraving work on the casket discussed here.
Obbe Cla(e)sen was the master of Jarich Gerritsz. van der Lely, who also used the lily as his mark in 1651, probably in honor of his patron, after his death in 1650, as well as Rintie Jans, the maker of the Popta silver.
Many thanks to Jan Schipper for his help attributing this casket.
Sotheby Mak van Waay, Amsterdam, Dutch Glory, Art & Collectors, December 3, 2002, lot 8;
Private collection, the Netherlands
Sotheby Mak van Waay, Amsterdam, Dutch Glory, Art & Collectors, December 3, 2002, lot 8
J.W. Frederiks, Dutch SIlver, vol. III, Wrought Plate of the Central, Northern, and Southern Provinces from the Renaissance until the End of the Eighteenth Century, p. 90-91;
Marlies E. Stoter, Lelie in ZIlver, Van der Lely, master silversmiths in Leeuwarden 1574-1788, De Walburg Pers, Zutphen, 1989, p. 22-23 (a spoon and two cups discussed);
A.C. Beeling, Nederlands Zilver, 1600-1813, vol. III, p. 60, ill. p. 61 (a marriage cup by the same maker, dated 1625).
a fleur-de-lys, for Obbe Claesen (active in Leeuwarden, 1611-1642), Leeuwarden circa 1615
8.6 cm wide