Brass Alms Dish
This 17th-century German Alms dish is crafted from brass. The dish depicts a turning sun in the middle of the plate, which symbolizes hope, prosperity, and the cosmic power of God. The rim is beautifully engraved with a circle and swirl pattern. An alms dish is a tray that is typically used to collect offerings from parishioners in a church. After the collection is complete, the dish is presented at the altar. Alternatively, alms dishes are used to hold, display, or serve food or other articles. In the 16th and 17th centuries, the applications of brass were endless. Its physical qualities include hardness, toughness, and colour that varies according to the zinc content of the alloy. The uses range from utility to ornament. At the time, brass was widely produced, extremely versatile and inexpensive, which made it the perfect material for alms dishes. Although alms dishes were common, each plate would have been engraved with individual ornamentation, making this particular object meaningful and unique.
At this time in Germany, the German composer and musician Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750) was born in Eisenach, Germany to a large family of prominent musicians. Admired by his contemporaries primarily as a talented harpsichordist, organist, and expert on organ building, Bach is today regarded as one of the greatest composers in Western music history. Working in the late Baroque period, Bach was able to survey and combine various musical traditions and stylistic preferences to produce a large oeuvre of primarily church and instrumental music.