A silver-gilt (wine tasting) dish

Taeke Lolles (active 1599 - 1608), Bolsward, 1599-1604

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A silver-gilt (wine tasting) dish

This small, beautifully chiselled bowl with gilt spheres and dots on the interior and with two cast handles has a gothic appearance. When bearing in mind when it was manufactured that is not strange. It was made in Friesland between 1599 and 1604. The medal in the centre of the bowl is a mid-16th century example, originating from Bohemia. It was not unusual to mount such medals in dishes as discussed here.

This dish was made by Taeke Lolles, a silversmith born around 1576 and active in Bolsward between 1599 and 1608. No town mark or date letter was struck in the bowl; in Frisia between 1529 and 1602-03 only a maker’s mark was struck in objects. In November of 1602 a new ordonnance for silversmiths was published, that appears in print in Statuten, Ordonnantien ende Costumen van Frieslandt (Articles of association, Ordonnances and Costumes of Frisia). These new rulings were immediately issued by the magistrate of Frisia, so that from 1 March 1603 also a town mark and date letter had to be struck into an object. The date letter is equal to that of all Frisian cities. Especially during the first years after 1603 only one letter per annum was used, so that the second alphabet only starts in 1632.

Ater 1 March 1603, a silver object had to be marked with a maker’s mark, struck by the maker himself; a town mark as well as the date letter were struck by the assay masters. These inspectors were appointed for the duration of two years, whereby an old and a new one would always alternate. In Bosward though, people did not take this 1603 Ordonnance very seriously. The Bolsward magistrate did not want to appoint a deputy assay master and the provincial government warned Bolsward once again in December 1603 to arrange the ruling. In January 1604 an order was issued to stick to the Ordonnance. Presumably from then on the town mark and date letter were struck as instructed.

Because of the above we must assume that the present dish was manufactured before 1604, otherwise it would have been approved by the inspector or his deputy. Only one other piece by Taeke Lolles is documented: a small beaker in the collection of the church of Blauwhuis, with date letter B, from the first alphabet, circa 1607-08.

As mentioned earlier, the medal is a 16th-century Bohemian piece. It was designed by Wolf Milicsz around 1550. The obverse depicts David and Goliath, the reverse represents David and Jonathan, the son of king Saul, for whom David played the harp.

Bolsward was a hanseatic city, but for the sale of dairy products it was depending on the cities of Holland. This is how Bolsward prospered. The city hall, built around 1615, is a sign of its flourishing n the 17th century. Certainly the trade in Holland has to do with this. Silver made in Bolsward is of high quality and beauty. During the 17th century it was not a vast city, but it was wealthy. Circa 1600 an odd nine silversmiths were active there, of whom some had become master in other Frisian cities.

The present bowl clearly shows the influence of other 16th-century drinking vessels as they were known in Holland. (cf. The two paintings by Cornelis Jacobs. Delft and Hendrik Goltzius, on which such vessels are depicted). It clearly underline Lolles’ skills as a silversmith.


Because of the flat handles on either side it slightly resembles the more popular brandy bowls as they were manufactured at the time, but without a foot. The function of the bowl is related to the tasting of wine, although it is not a hundred percent certain if it is a drinking vessel or a tasting dish. There is something to be said for both names. That it is meant for wine is beyond all doubt. The hollow depressions and the raised speckles were applied to carefully study the colour of the wine. The liquid shines and sparkles through the raised points when the bowl is turned in one’s hand. This design was relatively common in 16th-century drinking vessels that often had a foot ring or a stand (cf The civic guards of Rot F, by Cornelis Jacobs. Delft, dated 1557 and the dish in Lot and his daughters, by Hendrick Goltzius, 1616).


Because a foot underneath the vessel is lacking it is assumed that this dish is actually a so-called wine tasting vessel, or tastevin, the sommelier’s tool. This is a small dish with which a wine salesman could taste the wine he got offered. The lobes and the raised dots in the bottom were extra helpful. Often such bowls have one handle only; because our vessel has two handles, we may assume it was a drinking vessel.

Many thanks to Mr. Jan Schipper for his comments.

Private collection, The Netherlands

Associated Literature
Elias Voet, Merken van Friese goud en zilversmeden, 2nd ed. revised by A Wassenbergh and J. Penning, The Hague, 1974, n° 27, p. 19;
Dr. Johan R. ter Molen, Fries Goud en Zilver, Gorredijk 2014, 3 vols., vol. 2, p. 584 – 585;
P. Schoen, Tussen hamer en aambeeld. Edelsmeden in Friesland tijdens de Gouden Eeuw, n° 29, p. 315, the mark of the silversmith

Taeke Lolles (active 1599 - 1608), Bolsward, 1599-1604

diam. 12,8 cm., width over the ears 18,9 cm.

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