Silver Puerperal Cup. Milan, Circa 1830

Piccola zuppiera d’argento. Milano, 1830 circa
Silver

Silversmith L. B.
Small silver soup tureen or puerperal cup with plate and lid
Milan, around 1830

It measures:
height 19.5 cm (7.67 in) – diameter 21.7 cm (8.54 in)
State of conservation:
slight use defects and a dent on the plate

Particolari Piccola zuppiera d’argento

From about the mid-sixteenth century, the puerperal soup tureen or puerperal cup became one of the most popular wedding gifts in central Italy. As an auspicious symbol, it replaced the birth table (“desco da parto”) which, on the occasion of high-ranking marriages, from the thirteenth century, had been painted by famous artists, especially in Tuscany.
In France this same tureen is called écuelle de mariée, as it is given to spouses as a sign of fertility.
During the eighteenth century this custom spread even outside Italy to all social levels. Depending on availability and rank, it was made of different materials: precious metals, maiolica, porcelain, glass, pewter, etc.
Beginning in the mid-twentieth century, the custom of this symbolic homage gradually disappeared, although famous designers such as Gio Ponti and Giuseppe Gariboldi, even as recently as the 1940s, revisited a model of a small puerperal soup bowl for the Ginori and, also in Italy in 1940, in a national competition for young potters, one of the themes of the test was indeed a modern model of a puerperal cup as an auspicious gift.

This small silver tureen has the shape of a hemispherical bowl and rests on a tall cup-shaped foot decorated with parallel lobed and fluted bands. The body is surmounted by a domed lid with a grip in the shape of a playful putto holding a drape. This grip rests upon an elegant decorative motif applied in relief at the top of the lid with palmettes and sinuous florets. On the sides two handles with fitoforme decorations rise from the head of two female masks. The edge with lance-shaped leaves interspersed with small berries is repeated both on the lid and on the edge of the round dish which accompanies the work.

The marks present on the work are the following (the original descriptions are given as they appear on the documents of the Milan State Archive):
1) Heptagonal form. Globe with the Zodiac and the seven Trioni. Hallmark of the Guarantee Office in use in the Kingdom of Italy from 1812 for works with a title of 800 thousandths.
2) Plow. Hallmark of the Milan Guarantee Office in use since 1812.
3) A male figure and letters LB. Silversmith’s mark (unidentified).

Cover Photo: Fabrizio Stipari

Bibliography:

G. SAMBONET, Gli argenti milanesi, Longanesi & C., Milano 1987;
V. DONAVER – R. DABBENE, Punzoni degli argentieri milanesi dell’800, ed. San Gottardo, Milano 1988.

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