German; Probably Germany; Augsburg; Augsburg, Book cover, 1500-1550, Silver with ‘niello’ (black inlay) decoration, gilt; 14 x 8.6 x 5.1 cm (5 1/2 x 3 3/8 x 2 inches) leaf, Gift of Messrs. E. & A. Silberman 34.016
Both the ornamentation and the chains for suspending this object from its owner’s belt show the importance of the volume it enveloped. The book cover may have housed a missal, which contained all that is said or sung at Mass during the year. The decorated cover is a showcase for filigree and niello silverwork. Very thin strips of silver were wound into concentric circles and scrolling vines to form filigree. For the darker bands of niello, the artist incised grooves into the surface to leave the wispy feathers, leaves, and animals in relief. The hollows were filled with a darker inlay made from silver, lead, copper, and sulphur to contrast brilliantly with the relief in silver.