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Wassail Bowl, England, c. 1600
Made in 1/12th scale by Wm. R. Robertson, 2010
A wassail bowl is a fancy punch bowl used to hold hot, mulled punch associated with Yuletide. The smaller bowl on the top was used for spices. It has been said the fancy turned finials could be used to hang cups for draining. This miniature is inspired by an example in the Victorian and Albert Museum in London. It’s believed that King Charles I gave it as a gift in the 1600s.
Robertson turned and decorated on a machine called a rose engine, made by A. Duguet around 1835 in France. This machine was once in the Paris studio of the famous jeweler Cartier. Rose engines, a type of lathe with the movement of the work controlled by cams or rosettes, hence the name. Their use dates back to the 1500s and were mainly used to make decorative objects for royalty. Robertson used this 170+ year old machine along with other techniques to create this project. As with all his work he used no computer controlled equipment or modern methods.
The miniature is made of lignum vitae, one of the heaviest woods in the world, and ivory, just as the original. The Art Institute of Chicago commissioned Robertson to create this piece for one of the Thorne Rooms. The bowl can be found during the holiday season in room No. 1 in the English Great Hall of the Late Tudor Period, 1550-1603.