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  • Place of origin:

    Nuremberg (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1545-1555 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Preuning, Paul (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Earthenware with coloured glazes and applied moulded decoration

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Mrs Edith Cragg

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Medieval & Renaissance, Room 63, The Edwin and Susan Davies Gallery, case 7

  • Public access description

    This handsome jug was made in the workshop of Paul Preuning of Nuremberg in about 1545-55. It is typical of the brightly-coloured lead-glazed wares decorated with applied moulded relief decoration which were produced at Preuning's pottery outside the Tiergarten Gate of Nuremberg from the mid-1540s for at most fifty years.
    The distinctive style of Preuning's pots derives from the traditional local manufacture of stove tiles. At first usually plain green or brownish-black, such tiles decorated stoves which heated grand buildings such as palaces and abbeys. Bright polychrome glazes were introduced from about 1500 and in the 16th century were added relief mouldings after engraved designs and niches containing modelled figures.
    Preuning's wares were produced in the main for a fairly local market - that is to say, for sale in Nuremberg, throughout Germany and possibly to other lands of the Holy Roman Empire. Their decorative style and subject matter were tailored to German tastes. This vessel, probably intended for display rather than use, is decorated with scenes from the Gospels showing the Adoration of the Magi and the Massacre of the Innocents.

  • Physical description

    Large jug with narrow neck and small strap handle decorated with applied oak leaves. The jug has two wide horizontal zones, the upper with applied moulded figures representing the Adoration of the Magi and the lower with Herod enthroned and the Massacre of the Innocents. Each scene has beneath it a narrow yellow band decorated with applied white rosettes. Above the Adoration scene is a band decorated with applied moulded angel heads with small wings. Below the lowest rosette band on a dark blue ground are applied moulded masks, with yellow hair and beards, linked by garlands with fruit hanging from the centre of each.
    The Gospel of Matthew (ch.2, vv.1-12) describes how Magi from the East followed a star to Jerusalem in order to worship the infant King of the Jews. King Herod the Great asked his advisers where the Magi would find the child. His advisers suggested Bethlehem in Judaea, as prophesied in the Book of Micah. Herod asked the Magi to report back to him so that he could pay homage too. The Magi found the Virgin Mary with her new son Jesus and presented to him three gifts of gold (for kingship), frankincense (for divinity) and myrrh (used in embalming, a foreshadowing of the crucifixion). Warned by God in a dream not to report back to Herod, they went home by an alternative route. The Church commemorates this event as the Epiphany (or the manifestation of Christ) on 6th January. The Magi were presumed to be three in number because they presented three gifts. They may have been astrologers at the Persian court and priests of the cult of Mithras then widespread in the Roman Empire. In subsequent centuries the story was embroidered - Tertullian (about 160-230 A.D.) called them Kings and by 9th century they were given the names Caspar, Balthazar and Melchior. They also came to symbolise global worship of Christ, each apparently from a different age group and being made to represent the three known Continents of Europe, Africa and Asia.
    Matthew's Gospel (ch.2, vv.16-18) also recounts how (when the Holy Family had fled to Egypt) Herod realised that the Magi had left without reporting back to him, so ordered the massacre of all boys aged two and under in Bethlehem and its vicinity. This terrible act was prophesied in the Old Testament by Jeremiah (ch.31, v.15).

  • Dimensions

    Height: 53.5 cm, Width: 31.3 cm, Diameter: 30.7 cm, Weight: 3.3 kg

  • Object history note

    This handsome jug was made in Nuremberg, one of the biggest towns of the Holy Roman Empire with a population of about 45,000 by the end of the 16th century. As a Free Imperial City in the centre of Europe, it became very wealthy and fostered artistic endeavour and scientific enterprise. Among Nuremberg's talented artists in 16th century were Durer (painter and engraver), Veit Stoss (sculptor and wood-carver), and Wenzel Jamnitzer (goldsmith).
    Paul Preuning's pottery outside the Tiergarten Gate of Nuremberg flourished from the mid-1540s as is deduced from a combination of documentary sources, excavated material from the site and subject-matter used. Pots from his workshop are quite distinctive with their range of bright glazes and repertoire of moulded relief figures. A relief mould (formerly in the possession of Alfred Walcher von Molthein) depicting Prince Elector Johann Friedrich of Saxony was excavated on the Preuning workshop site. It was almost certainly made between 1548 and 1551 as Johann Friedrich is shown as a prisoner in a simple robe without sword or chain (he was released in 1551). Another relief mould with Preuning's dancing peasants is preserved at the Kunstmuseum, Frankfurt. Moulds of "Caritas" and "Saturnus" were also excavated at the pottery site but are of later date. The family continued to about 1600 - Magdalena, who was probably Paul's mother, died in 1557 and his wife Anna in 1562. His three sons died between 1598 and 1605. The exact date of Paul's death is not known as the funerals book for 1573-97 is lost, but as his death does not appear in books before or after those dates, he must have died in that period.
    Some later work exists which appears similar to the pots from Preuning's workshop but this comes from Austria as former apprentices from Preuning's pottery took their skills and glaze recipes to Salzburg and Upper Austria. However, they could not take the Preuning moulds with them so their use of their own moulds distinguishes the work from that of the Preuning workshop.

    Historical significance: Unlike Rhineland stonewares, Preuning's wares were not exported in large quantities. The output from his workshop was relatively small and at most of 50 years' duration. Nor do the jugs survive in any quantity. Most seem to have been produced for the local i.e. Nuremberg market, for Germany and possibly other lands of the Holy Roman Empire. Their decorative style and subject matter were tailored to German tastes. In France, the market was for the more finely-moulded, less solid and less brightly-glazed wares of Bernard Palissy. Although the moulded figures which Preuning applied to his pots straightforward to make and quite quick to apply, the skill was in the overall design scheme, the placing of the figures, the making of the original moulds and in the glazing with several colours. The master often made variations to the stock moulded figures or varied their glazing scheme. It would have been possible to decorate several pots simultaneously as several employees could each work with copies of the moulds and their own colour supplies.
    Many motifs derived from Mannerist engravings by Italian masters such as by Enea Vico who did vase designs after the antique, metalwork designs by Riccio, Cellini and Giulio Romano, and paintings by Raphael and Rosso Fiorentino. The engravings of the Frenchman du Cerceau and the metalwork designs of Wenzel Jamnitzer of Nuremberg may also have been influences.
    In May 1548, an Interim declared that the Lutheran doctrine should be abolished. The Protestants had suffered defeat at the Battle of Muhlberg and the Prince Elector of Saxony imprisoned by the Emperor. In June, Preuning's workshop made some jugs which bore a strange juxtaposition of Christ on the Cross flanked by a drummer and a piper in the positions normally assigned to the Virgin and St. John. The Town Council considered this iconography blasphemous and Paul Preuning, possibly denounced by a fervent Roman Catholic or a jealous potter, was arrested and questioned for three days as to whether the jugs had been made on a whim or had been commissioned, and if the latter, by whom. He was also asked who helped, why it was done, how many had been produced, how many sold and how many still remained in his workshop. Paul Preuning said that his relative Kunz Preuning had made them. The jugs were all smashed and others in the workshop which showed the Crucifixion with dancing peasants were also confiscated. Kunz fled to Bayreuth but in July 1548, supported by the Prince Elector of Brandenburg, he negotiated the terms of his return with the Council. He was permitted to return on condition he served a light punishment of 14½ days' imprisonment.
    From this documented account, the date of a jug bearing the arms and genealogy of the Imhoff family of Nuremberg can be assumed to be July 1547 to July 1548, deduced from the use of the same relief-moulded mercenaries and peasants which appear on the two known jugs surviving after the destruction of the jugs by the Council. The date of the Prince Elector of Saxony mould is deduced to be 1548-51 (see Object History Note) and an image of the Emperor with Spanish felt hat must be post-1547 as it is based on a woodcut of that date by the monogrammist M.R.
    Other subjects which appear on important Preuning jugs include:
    - The Electors of the Holy Roman Empire (Walters Art Museum, Baltimore)
    - The town of Nuremberg (Kunstgewerbe Museum, Cologne)
    - Nuremberg buildings (Metropolitan Museum, New York)
    - The Judgement of Paris (on four jugs including one in the Kunstgewerbe Museum,
    - Adam and a lion with Eve and a deer (V&A)
    - Adam and Eve used in combination with Christ in Gesthemane, the Sacrifice of
    Abraham and the Adoration of the Magi (the latter containing figures used on the V&A
    - Crucifixion group including the Virgin and St. John (Mainfraenkisches Museum,
    - Armed figures each side of a tree (V&A)
    - A stag hunt (V&A, formerly from Coombe Abbey, Coventry - the Countess of
    Craven's sale at Christies, 11/12 April 1923 lot 6)

  • Historical context note

    Preuning's pots fall into a category known as "Hafner ware" which refers to stove tiles made first with green lead glaze and later also in brownish-black. These tiles decorated stoves which heated grand buildings such as palaces and abbeys. Bright polychrome glazes were introduced from about 1500 and in 16th century were added relief mouldings after engravings by the Kleinmeister and niches containing modelled figures. Nuremberg was then one of the most important centres for stove-making in Germany. Preuning's jugs derived from this work with their bright glazes and applied leaves, stems, threads and relief-moulded figures. Preuning's jugs were formerly assigned to the engraver and designer Augustin Hirchvogel (1503-c.1553) as he was known to be associated with some Nuremberg potters in 1531, but his wares were later discovered to be too early and he is now thought insteadto have made maiolica plates in the Venetian style.
    Although a large decorated Preuning jug could in theory be used for water, it is far more likely that this splendid luxury item was for display only. Some jugs were specially commissioned. By the 17th century, the status of Hafner ware jugs declined to a "peasant" craft and with the Thirty Years' War, Nuremberg itself declined from its ascendant position.

  • Descriptive line

    Earthenware jug decorated with coloured glazes and applied moulded decoration depicting the Adoration of the Magi and Massacre of the Innocents, workshop of Paul Preuning, Nuremberg, Germany, about 1545-55

  • Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

    W.B. Honey, European Ceramic Art. Illustrated historical survey, London, 1949, pl.16A, and Dictionary, 1952, p.456.
    Otto von Falke, Das Sigmaringer Museum III: Kunstgewerbe der Renaissance, in Pantheon I, Jan.-June 1928, p.179
    Robin Hildyard, European Ceramics, London: V&A, 1999, pp.11-13
    Alfred Walcher von Molthein, Der Fertiger (Paulus Preuning) der sogenannten Hirschvogelkruege, in Kunst und Kunsthandwerk, 1904, v.7, p.486ff.
    Alfred Walcher von Molthein, Arbeiten der Nurnberger Hafnerfamilie, in Kunst und Kunsthandwerk, 1905, v.8, p.134ff.
    Alfred Walcher von Molthein, Beitraege zur Geschichte Deutscher Keramik: Die Deutschen Hafnerarbeiten der Sammlung Bondy in Wien, in Altes Kunsthandwerk, Band I Heft 1, Vienna, 1927
    Ingolf Bauer, Keramik des 16. Jahrhunderts als Religiöses Zeichen?, in Zeitschrift fuer Bayerische Landesgeschichte, 2005 vol.68, pp.541-553

  • Collection code

    Ceramics Collection