Stein of the Month: June 2001

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Salt-glazed Relief Stein
with Drinking Symbolism

The stein shown to the right is salt-glazed gray stoneware richly decorated in relief with symbols of drinking. A monkey seated on the lid clutching his Stiefel (drinking boot) is an oft-used symbol of the drinking habit. A bear (slow moving and slow witted) forms the figural handle, with the rope around his neck forming the pewter shank. The cats encircling the body provide a visual pun, as the word Kater means both tomcat and hangover. The upper and lower frieze bands are comprised of hops vines and buds, which also provide the monkey on the lid with a comfortable place to rest. The verse reminds us of the virtues of drinking:
    'S ist besser mit Affen mit Kater und Bären
Als allzeit mit Ochsen und Eseln verkehren.
    Your precious time is better spent with tomcats, monkeys and bears than with oxen and stubborn donkeys.

The scenes on the body give us further insight into the proper use of our precious time. In the same order as the scenes appear on the body, a cat stretches to shake the stiffness of a good night's sleep, has a drink to slake his thirst, does some socializing, gnaws on a herring to counter the effects of too much alcohol, and retires to rest for another day.

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