Tradescant Collection

 

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  The Catalogue: Lantern  
Introduction
The Cabinet of
Curiosities
The John Tradescants
The Tradescant
Collection
Musaeum
Tradescantianum
The Tradescant
Room
Further Reading
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About this Resource
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DIMENSIONS:
Height (overall) 286 mm; Diameter (body) 145 mm
DESCRIPTION:
Heavy copper-alloy lantern with inset crystals. The cast cylindrical body is pierced by a round-headed shutter with, on the left, two three-element hinges with bent wire pivots and, on the right, a central catch of the same design as the hinges, of which the central element (on the door) is broken. The lower edge of the body is rebated on the inside for a base-plate which, together with the internal fittings, is missing. A segmented octofoil dome forms the top of the lantern, terminating in a flanged collar. An iron pin, passed through this collar from the inside, is threaded successively with a loose bronze ferrule with broken expansions to either side, a large lathe-turned crystal, and, through a transverse hole at the end, a bent square-shanked iron nail with a rough quatrefoil head. Each segment of the top is perforated with a single circular hole near the apex and with multiple holes towards the bottom; on four segments there are five circular holes in a cruciform setting; on one segment a vertical setting of three holes is flanked on either side by a pair of further holes; three segments each have four pear-shaped holes arranged in a cross, with a circular hole between each of the arms. On the body of the lantern are three raised bands with relief decoration: the uppermost takes the form of a continuous frieze of palmettes; the central band displays individual embossed floreate motifs; and on the bottom is a running foliate scroll with trefoil and cinquefoil leaves, each differing slightly from its neighbors. The upper and lower bands are each interrupted by four hog-backed oval crystals set in pierced mounts, while in the central band the embossed flower motifs alternate with eight hemispheral crystals, similarly set; there are settings for four conical crystals below the upper band, matched by four more above the lower band, each of these groups now lacking one crystal. The shutter is surrounded by a raised moulding, grooved at the margins.
COMMENTARY:
The description of 1685 gives no hint that this lantern is the most important European object in the entire collection: no doubt its origins were by then quite unknown. By the early nineteenth century, at least, it had acquired a spurious association with King Alfred. There is good reason to believe that a German origin can now be claimed for it. The alloy composition of the lantern is consistent with an origin in north Germany, probably in the Rheinland, and with a date of manufacture in the twelfth century.
Museum Id. No:
1685 B no. 416: Laternae Duae, quarum una ex ferro [erased and replaced by aere] christallis hic illic oculato conflata; altera ex cornu
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