18th or early 19th century miniature coffin. German todlein memento mori or talisman
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This is a remarkable and rare piece that we sourced from a very good antique auction house in Vienna. It seems to be 18th century, but could be early 19th. It's a genuinely antique piece, not a reproduction, and quite a find!
It's a "todlein" (little death) or memento mori. These were used as devotional objects but also seemed to be popular simply as macabre pieces of art. As ours is Austrian, we think it may also relate to the German sea-faring tradition of keeping dolls in tiny coffins as a good-luck talisman.
There has been debate about what these coffins may have been for beyond these uses - many of the theories are outlined in this article, "The Mystery of the Miniature Coffins" from the National Museums of Scotland (some similar coffins - believed possibly to be by Saxon/German makers were found in Scotland).
It's beautifully made - the skeleton itself seems to be bone, and the coffin is lined with the type of metallic lace braid that was usually used in ecclesiastical pieces.
The skeleton figure is sealed in with a piece of clear glass - it's not open. This is a little hard to show on photos but if you need more pictures, please get in touch. The lid is marked with a date (we are not sure how to interpret "XII IXX" - possibly 1719 or 1790?), and symbols including the sun and the all-seeing eye of god.
These pieces are very collectible now and not easy to find. This one is in excellent, antique condition.
We will pack very carefully, but if you would like us to fully insure the parcel, please get in touch and we will cost the options for doing that.