An important dated Münster mortar
Golden brown cast bronze with smoky coloured natural patina. Conical form with solid base and slightly stepped, tapering rim. Decorated with three horizontal bands of acanthus and a central scrolling heraldic shield with the conjoined monograms "NI" and "TBI" (possibly engraved later). Inscribed below the rim in majuscule "ALLE DINCK VORGEIT GADES WORT BLIFT IN EWICHEIT MDLIX IOANNES ALTHENA". Later engraved inscription around the base "JOHN BARLOWE INGELANDER ELSKD CALTDBOS GE GOEF T HAB". The handles formed as two finely chased heads of bearded men. H 18.5, D 17 cm. Weight 4,0 kg.
Attributed to the Bernd Schmedding foundry, 1559.
Private collection, England.
Private collection, Essen.
Private collection, Westphalia.
Illus. and described in: Elling, Ein Mörser von 1559 kehrte aus England zurück, in: Biographische Skizzen, Vreden 2000, p. 300 ff.
Cf. also Hömberg, Der norddeutsche Mörser im Zeitalter von Gotik und Renaissance, Stuttgart 1983, cat. 59 and 72.
The patron, Johannes Althena requested the biblical passage Isaiah 40:8 as the inscription for his mortar, the message of which indicates that he may have been a supporter of the reformation. The engraving in the base of the piece leads us to its later owner, the Englishman John Barlow, who was married to Elsa Kattenbusch from Münster. The London branch of the Hanseatic league was closed in 1598 by Queen Elisabeth I in reaction to Emperor Rudolf II's expulsion of English merchants from Germany in 1597. These royal and imperial decrees forced many merchants to return to their homelands, but John Barlow decided to move to Münster with his wife, where he came into possession of this mortar via her family.
The attribution to the foundry of Bernd Schmedding was made possible through the publication of sources on the bronze casters of Munich by Max Geisberg. Wilhelm Elling mentions one these sources, noting that Bernd Schmedding was guild master of the bronze caster's guild in Münster during the relevant years. His foundry, which also produced bells and cannon, was most probably responsible for this mortar.
This attribution has opened a discussion on the attributions of several other mortars of the same type, two of which are published in Wolfgang Hömberg's monograph. These include a mortar with the same Bible passage and similar architectural form in the Westfälisches Landesmuseum in Münster (1561) as well as a mortar with an identical shield and Turk's head handles in the St. Annen-Museum in Lübeck (1577).