Early records state that the shaft of the present sceptre was turned
from the legendary “alicorn”, i.e., the horn of a unicorn. In reality,
however, it is made from the tusk of a narwhal. According to legend,
the unicorn could not be captured by a hunter but it placed its head in
the lap of a virgin and allowed itself to be caught by her. In an extension
of this myth, the maiden became the Virgin Mary, and the unicorn,
which in the legend purified a poisoned well with its horn, was considered
to be an image of Christ. Because of this symbolism with its reference to
the power of Christ, this precious material was predestined to be a symbol
of ecclesiastical and secular power. The slender shaft of the Sceptre is reinforced by an iron bar on the inside to prevent deformation by the heavy sceptre head of enamelled gold. This knob-like structure consists of curved clasps whose great variety of forms at first seems almost unintelligible to the eye. The choice of precious stones is a reference to the Rudolphine Crown (Kaiserliche Schatzkammer Wien). Six layers of ornamentation lie beneath the bezel settings of the main diamond clasps.
The ruby clasps are designed slightly more simply. Similar to the Crown
and Imperial Orb, a large sapphire serves as the crowning ornament
of the Sceptre. The capsule at the end of the handle bears the signature
of the goldsmith: “Andreas Osenbruck fecitt Anno 1615”. For his crown,
Rudolph II had still used the insignia of Emperor Ferdinand I from
the 1530s. However, when Rudolph’s brother and successor, Emperor
Matthias (1557–1619), came to power, these were replaced by the new
Sceptre by Andreas Osenbruck, who probably also created the matching
Imperial Orb. In its form the Sceptre resembles a mace rather than its
simple predecessors and represents a unique virtuoso example of the
goldsmith’s art. © Masterpieces of the Secular Treasury, Edited by Wilfried Seipel, Vienna 2008


  • Title: Sceptre
  • Creator: Andreas Osenbruck
  • Date Created: 1615
  • Location Created: Prague
  • Physical Dimensions: h75.5 cm
  • Inventory Number: WS XIa 2
  • Type: symbols of office or status
  • External Link: http://www.kaiserliche-schatzkammer.at/

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