German Silver Double Cup for Circumcision, Philipp Stenglin, Augsburg, 1707-1711
A German silver double cup for circumcision, Philipp Stenglin, Augsburg, 1707-11
These cups were made in Augsburg, Germany between 1707 and 1711, as that span of years, as well as the maker himself, Phillip Stenglin, are revealed to us by the hallmarks At some point in the 18th century, almost certainly before 1760, these cups, produced for the general public originally, were adapted for Jewish use and were engraved with Hebrew wording relating to the Brit Milah ceremony and read “Cup of Metzitzah”, “Cup of Blessing”. The “Metzitzah” cup is used during the circumcision itself, by the mohel, the person trained in this delicate procedure that dates back to ancient times. At the conclusion of the circumcision, it is the time to name the baby. There is a second sandek (a man representing the father of the baby), who holds the infant as the mohel recites the blessings and names the child. The blessings are recited over wine in the “Cup of Blessing”, and twice during the naming, the mohel will dip his pinky into the cup of wine, and place tiny drops in the baby’s mouth. The Hebrew engraving on the cups is extremely high in quality, with appropriate 250+ year old wear, done with dense “cross-hatching” in each Hebrew letter itself, which is typical of 17th and early 18th century Judaica hailing from Germany, most often found on Kiddush Cups and the removable plaques on Torah Shields. The lettering is flanked by engraved tulips and scrolling flowers. Both the rims and the lower halves of the cups were gold-washed (“gilt”), giving a sense of luxuriousness to the cups. The lower half of each cup was hand-chased is a pattern known as “gadroon” or “gadrooning”, a type of workmanship found on the highest quality silver objects of Western Europe. As you can see from the photos, these cups were pictured in a German newspaper article in 1929, which described our cups, along with other Judaica being displayed in the Jewish Museum of Breslau, which featured our cups in an exhibit titled “Das Judentum in der Geschichte Schlesiens”, which was held between February 3rd through March 17th, 1929.
The silver workshop of Philipp Stenglin specialized in making beakers and cups. A beaker by Stenglin, made between 1711 and 1715, is engraved with a Hebrew inscription for a Jewish Burial Society, and dated in Hebrew “1776”. That beaker is in the Prague Jewish Museum. While there are 18th century circumcision cups from Germany in other Jewish institutions such as the Jewish Museum of Berlin and the Jewish Museum of London, we cannot locate other examples comparable to ours in terms of quality: both of the cups themselves, with the delicate, painstakingly hand-chased work featured on the lower-halves, as well as the Hebrew engraving, which is extraordinarily large (most unusual and interesting in and of itself), and in letters such as the tzaddi, are very artistically stylized, in what could only be described as done for “the most elite of 18th century German Jewry”.
To note: having iron-clad, pre-war proof of the provenance of Judaica is exceedingly rare when encountering objects appearing in the antique marketplace, and when presented, are usually described as “handed down for four generations to the present owner”, or something along similar lines. The case of our cups, having been exhibited in a museum in Germany in 1929 and then photographed for a newspaper article at that time, is truly remarkable. This of course adds tremendous monetary value to our cups, as there can be no doubts whatsoever to their authenticity, and without exaggeration, are indeed “museum worthy”.
Exhibit: “Das Judentum in der Geschichte Schlesiens” February 3rd - March 17th, 1929.
H 4.5 in. x Dm 3 in.
H 11.43 cm x Dm 7.62 cm
1707 - 1711
marked on both bases with maker’s mark and town mark