Made from about 10.5 kg of gold, this precious set along with
10,000 guilders was the wedding present of the Carinthian estates
(thus the Carinthian coat of arms on the body of the ewer and at the
centre of the basin) to Archduke Charles of Inner Austria and Maria of
Bavaria. It was presented to the couple by the head of government in the
province, Georg, Count Khevenhüller, on 11 September 1571 in Graz.
From the estate of Maria the set came into the possession of the son of
this marriage, the later Emperor Ferdinand II (1578–1637), who brought
it to Vienna and deposited it in the Treasury. Fortunately, the set was not
melted down – which often happened with gold objects when money was
short – because the imperial family used the basin at least for christenings.
This tradition was maintained until the end of the monarchy, although
the set, which was intended as a “lavabo”, i.e., for washing one’s hands
at the table, does not bear any religious motifs.
At that time gold was not yet hallmarked. However, the style and
numerous details of the work suggest that the set is the work of a Spanish
goldsmith, although it is not yet known whether it was created in Spain
or Vienna. Several Spanish goldsmiths worked at the Vienna court of
Emperor Maximilian II (1527–1576) and his Spanish wife. On the other
hand there were also close connections with the Madrid court of Philip II
(1527–1598). If the precious work was created in Spain, it most likely
contains gold from the New World. © Masterpieces of the Secular Treasury, Edited by Wilfried Seipel, Vienna 2008