This large tankard is called an imperial eagle tankard. It is 31 cm tall and can hold almost 4 L of liquid. From the 16th to the 18th century it was one of the most popular drinking vessels. Secular and spiritual dignitaries such as Kaisers, electoral princes and popes used these enormous glass containers to tell the story of the development of the Empire in pictorial form.
In doing this they made use of the double-headed imperial eagle, which is also known as the quaternion eagle, because imperial states with a common attribute were grouped together into fictitious groups of four: Quaternions. There was the group of electoral princes, the margraves and so on. In the Eagle’s pinions you’ll be able to see the 56 coats of arms. These stand for the individual groups of the imperial constitution. Right at the top near the eagle’s head are the electoral princes’ and the popes’ coats of arms.
Owners of imperial eagle tankards were predominantly members of the smaller estates of the Empire such as patricians, guild members and craftsmen to whom the outwardly expression of their connections to the empire and its links, was extremely important. And what better way to do this than passing round an imperial eagle tankard during a social glass-raising?
The imperial eagle tankards were also valued for their decorative effect and their vibrant enamel colours. The enamelling technique involves burning finely ground glass onto the finished glass at 800°C. It was a technique already used by Syrian Glass painters during antiquity. Enamelling came to Germany during the 16th century via Venice and remained popular until into the 18th-century.