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Johann Hass

The Exeter Salt c.1630

RCIN 31772

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A silver-gilt table salt in the form of a tower with cylindrical corner turrets and a tall central turret with an open gallery and domed roof above, resting on a chased mound supported by dragons on ball feet, the salt is encrusted with jewels. The body of the salt (or spice box) is fitted with small drawers.

For many years this salt was thought to be a model of the White Tower (part of the Tower of London). It is, in fact, a fantasy castle and the only surviving work of the Hamburg goldsmith Johann Hass. A similar piece in the form of a castle, which acts as a perfume burner, may be found in the Armoury collection of the Kremlin, in Moscow. The salt was one of four pieces delivered to the royal goldsmith, Thomas Vyner, by Richard Bradshaw, Resident of Hamburg. The salt was presented to Charles II for his coronation by the Parliamentarian stronghold of Exeter, possibly as a gift of propitiation. It was at this date that Vyner added the jewelled mounts. The windows of the castle were enamelled for the Coronation banquet of George IV in 1821.

Johann Hass is recorded as a member of the Hamburg Goldsmiths' Guild from 1621, when he was granted citizenship. He took three sons and six others as apprentices and died in 1650.