An Extremely Rare Artisanal Tool in the Dresden ‘Cabinet’ Fashion, c. 1565-1600

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Item ref: 4210

  • Germany, Dresden
  • Steel
  • 18.5 x 58.5 cm


Likely made for the personal Kunstkammer collections of the Electors of Saxony in Dresden, and included among the subsequent dispersal sales from the wider collection in the 19th century and post-1918.

This imposing work, while somewhat resembling a slender type of anvil stake (a bickern) used for shaping metal, is more likely the specialist pick or hammer historically used in the laying of brick walls. The exaggerated proportions suggest the intention of presenting this piece as either a masterpiece or more likely, a ceremonial processional example. The maker’s mark, the letter H within a fretted rectangle is struck no less than six times on both sides. Although there would appear to be no record of Hacker’s mark, the fine styling of this work in the context of the electoral Kunstkammer collection givesstrong plausibility to Balthasar Hacker as the maker.

The superb etched decoration and finish belies the utilitarian nature of this piece; in these respects, it is typical among themany 16th century tools and instruments made for the Saxon electors. An example in private ownership is far from typical.

Constructed and finished to masterpiece standard throughout, the collection of ceremonial tools, implements and artisanal instruments made for the Saxon electors encompasses a comprehensive range of occupational disciplines. Today the collection numbers more than 7,000 pieces, the majority preserved in the collections of the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Dresden, and some of which are displayed in both the Rüstkammer and the room in the Kunstkammercalled ‘Der Kurfürst als artifex’. Other pieces formerly in Dresden, including works attributed to Hacker, are in the Musée National de la Renaissance, Ecouen.

Balthasar Hacker was the pupil of the renowned Nuremberg inventor and engineer Leonhard Danner (1507-85). Among Danner’s many accomplishments are a marquetry wire-drawing bench made for the Elector August I, together with a variety of exquisite etched steel implements for the elector also.