Notable Acquisition: Duk d’Alf Bell

The Venetian-style glass Duk d’Alf Bell is both a drinking goblet and a bell. The glass ring on the inside originally held a glass clapper. The applied decoration of gilded masks and turquoise dots allows a firm attribution to a glasshouse in Antwerp. The history of such bells recalls a period of time that is known both for the finest façon de Venise glassmaking and for turbulent political struggles that spurred their design and use.

Drinking Goblet and Bell, So-called Duk d’Alf Bell (named after the duke of Alva), Low Countries, Antwerp, 1575–1600. Blown, mold-blown, tooled, applied, gilded. H. 19.4 cm, Diam. 13.7 cm (2011.3.116).

Drinking Goblet and Bell, So-called Duk d’Alf Bell (named after the duke of Alva), Low Countries, Antwerp, 1575–1600. Blown, mold-blown, tooled, applied, gilded. H. 19.4 cm, Diam. 13.7 cm (2011.3.116).

These glass bells are closely related to the Dutch Revolt (1567–1609) and especially to the battle in which William of Orange (1533–1584) and his Protestant provinces fought against the Catholic occupation by the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (1500–1558) and his son Philip II of Spain (1527–1598). The third duke of Alva, Fernando Álvarez de Toledo (1507–1582), was the hated governor of the Netherlands from 1567 to 1573. According to a 1732 publication on Dutch eating and drinking habits (see below), bell-shaped drinking glasses were used at a banquet in 1581 during which the Dutch government decided to battle the Spanish king. Those who attended the banquet first drank wine from the bells and then turned them over and rang them to “sound away” the Spanish. This use of the bells was continued by the Dutch people following the duke’s reign.

This type of drinking bell was first published and illustrated in Kornelis van Alkemade, Nederlandse displegtigheden, Rotterdam, 1732, v. 2, pp. 512–516. That publication describes both the use and the political context of glass drinking bells.