Monatsbecher (month beaker), by Courakt Grenter, about 1560
An inscription in German on this beautifully engraved beaker reads 'In January I drink good wine and need fine food for my pleasure'. This beaker was the first in a series of twelve beakers of the kind called Monatsbecher or month beakers. The beakers celebrated different times of the year with engraved scenes appropriate for the season. There is a lively dining scene in the upper engraved frieze showing similar beaker on the table. A maidservant discreetly warming her bottom by a large stove and men shooting ducks by a river add to the charm of the piece. The goldsmith appears to have based the former scene on a woodcut for the month of January by the engraver and designer Hans Sebald Beham (1550-50). The woodcut was evidently popular and was also printed in Martin Luther’s prayer book of 1527.
This series illustrating the months by scenes of contemporary and mostly rural life was very popular. It was copied by other engravers including a version in reverse by Hans Brosamer (1500-54) and another version adapted by Virgil Solis (1514-78) in the 1540s.