The weight of plate in early modern inventories and secularization lists
Arts in general
Geography. Anthropology. Recreation
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AbstractWeight was an essential descriptive category for precious metalwork in early modern Europe because it estimated the monetary value that could be extracted in raw material from the formed object. Rather than mere financial information, recorded weights acknowledged precious metal’s transformational potential, which structured the ‘period eye’ for plate. This essay considers recorded weights of plate in inventories from German speaking-lands, in particular secularization lists that documented church treasures about to be liquidated. To better contextualize and interpret them, this essay establishes the metrological framework that underpinned the weighing of gold and silver, as well as the methodological challenges involved in recovering historical measurements. It also explores some applications for weighing and the analysis of recorded weights in art historical methodology, ultimately arguing for a more consistent use of weight by scholars and curators in the study of metalwork.