Design for an elaborate sconce with allegorical figures of three virtues

Second half of the 16th Century
Attributed to Erasmus Hornick (Flemish, active in Germany, died in 1583)


Sheet: 20.5 x 32.6 cm (8 1/16 x 12 13/16 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Pen and ink with brush and wash over black chalk

Not On View


Europe, Prints and Drawings



It is extremely difficult to determine the authorship and date of goldsmiths’ drawings. In the absence of signatures or other documentation, a degree of uncertainty always remains. Though the attribution to Erasmus Hornick may be supplanted some day, it serves as an index to approximate the drawings’ origin: probably southern Germany, probably between 1550 and 1600. Southern Germany and Switzerland were renowned for their production of luxury goods, especially metal work.

The drawing is for an elaborate wall sconce intended to hold four candles. A fine, black chalk underdrawing shows the care with which the artist laid out a geometric framework governing the proportions of the imaginative curvilinear foliate and floral design. Intricate detailing is executed in pen and ink, while washes add volume and suggest the play of light over the sculptural forms. The handling is skillful throughout.

An elaborate column rises from the center of the base. It is surrounded by three allegorical figures of the virtues Justice, Industry (or Eloquence), and Temperance. Above is a divided cornice surmounted by a vase. If the design was ever executed, the actual sconce would be unlikely to survive due to changing fashions and the use of expensive materials. The drawing provides a vivid sense of this now lost form of functional yet luxurious decoration so typical of the wildly creative interlude between the Renaissance and Baroque periods.


Sold New York, Christie's, 28 January 1999, lot 106; to Tom Rassieur (born 1957, St. Louis); his gift to MFA, March 26, 2008.

Credit Line

Gift of Tom Rassieur in memory of Tracey Albainy