Pilgrim Flask

Object Details


Pilgrim Flask






Venice, Veneto, Italy, Europe (Place created)


about 1500 - 1520


Free-blown colorless glass with gold leaf, enamel, and applied decoration

Object Number:



31.3 × 17.5 cm (12 5/16 × 6 7/8 in.)

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From the shape of dried gourds used by travelers to carry drinking water, metalworkers patterned their versions of these flasks. From the metal examples, with their tall tapering necks and flat oval bodies, artists in glass and ceramics made their own purely decorative versions of these pilgrim flasks. The gilded knobs attached to the sides above and below the bulge of the body imitate the loops that would have originally attached the flask to the pilgrim's side; glassworkers retained them as a decorative reminder of the vessel's earlier function.

On each side of the flask, two boys dressed in tunics, sashes, and high boots stand in a hilly landscape surrounded by oversized flowers, with tufts of grass, cattails, and other plants in the foreground. The boys hold a blank shield between them. Although the source is unknown, the boys may have been copied from a contemporary engraving. The vessel was probably produced for general stock in a glass workshop, with the coat of arms of its purchaser painted later on demand.

The Arts of Fire: Islamic Influences on the Italian Renaissance (May 4 to September 5, 2004)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), May 4 to September 4, 2004