vorige Hefte

Vera M. F. Hammer/Helene Hanzer/Peter Huber:
"Handstein" in the Mineralogical Exhibition of Vienna Natural History Museum

The word "Handstein" (handstone) was originally used to describe a special ore specimen, perhaps even a crystallised silver ore, that miners were able to pick up for examination and sometimes gave as a gift to the owner of the mine. In the 16th century, these were artistically treated specimens which, usually resting on a gilded silver pedestal, showed a mining scene together with a religious theme. These specimens had their second heyday in the 18th century. Baroque specimens (mining models) always consist of many different minerals. Depictions of mining scenes and equipment prevail, with religious motifs playing only a subordinate role. They are usually centrepieces with a flat, tray-like base and a silver, occasionally gilded border. These specimens were usually prepared as a special gift to be presented on festive occasions to high-ranking figures, such as the mine owner or a prince.

A very remarkable specimen owned by the descendants of Max Ritter von Gutmann was generously donated to the Vienna Natural History Museum in 2001. There is no direct equivalent of this specimen. This essay's assessment of the miner's uniform and the mineral components indicates that the item most probably came from Saxony, but possibly from the Bohemian Ore Mountains. Presumably it was produced in the second half of the 18th century.