STANDING CUPS

When we arrive at a period when the silversmith seems to have thrown all his energies into the production of a cup of state, we pass from the table of the host who could without fear of injury hand tankard or great cup round among his guests to the realm of the fanciful, the days of pomp and ceremonial. The cup hitherto, more of a bowl on a foot than a cup, took the more dignified term when a high stem was added, but that soon became a plea for ornament and as so many of those splendid standing cups in our Museums show gave opportunities to the silversmith.

It should be clearly understood that there are cups of many materials and even those treasured in the plate chests of public authorities are merely coconuts and ostrich eggs mounted in silver. There are some fine cups of the latter form in the Gold Ornament Room at the British Museum. In the Guide to the Franks Bequest, we learn that the ostrich egg was formerly known as the gripe's (gryphon's) egg, and that many such cups date from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The Victoria and Albert Museum is a veritable store-house of old standing cups and of replicas copied from cups of great historic interest from all over the world. One very handsome coconut cup and cover, mounted in silver, repoussé, chased and engraved with the initials " M. D.," dates from circa 1610, its beautiful stem is engraved with leaves and has an ornamented lid. Coco-nut cups of more modest types are to be seen in almost every London silversmith's shop. In many English homes there are wooden drinking cups, many the work of amateurs and local workmen, turned out of cherry wood, box or some other hard close-grained wood. Some of them are carved and enriched like the coconut cups with silver rims and shields, not a few being tall and graceful and really attractive drinking vessels. Some of those of bowl-like form might be connected with the much earlier mazer bowls, but most of these wooden cups are the work of wood turners of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. It is no uncommon thing to see such vessels which have been neglected for years now brought out, re-polished and fitted with silver rims-when lined with silver that make capital sugar bowls. We have seen a few choice little cups of lignum vitae almost like wine goblets inlaid with light wood in decorative panels with the original owner's initials engraved on a silver shield.

As regards standing cups, it must not be thought that all such cups are extravagant or unwieldy ; for instance, two almost plain cups of chalice-like forms are in the Victoria and Albert Museum, given by Mr. Tufnell Burchell--these are of early seventeenth century workmanship. Very different is the very beautiful two-handled cup and cover illustrated (Figure 69), a cup made in Dublin, by J. Jackson, in 1779, and now in the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin. By the courtesy of the Museum authorities we are also able to give two quite plain cups (see Figures 70, 71) ; one of these is by W. Williamson, of Dublin, and is hall-marked 1730: the other is by J. Johns, of Limerick, hall-marked in 1741. Those who have seen the arrays of plate still to be met with in the colleges of our Universities must deplore those splendid cups and the like that perished during the Civil War, for if the cups still extant are an example the colleges must have been rich indeed in plate. In a very interesting book entitled Oxford and Cambridge and their Colleges, Memories and Associations," written many years ago, we get glimpses of these treasures in silver scattered here and there amongst the realistic descriptions of the colleges and their old relics. In telling us of the tower of St. Mary Magdalen College, Oxford, the author, the Rev, F. Arnold, says, " There is the muniment room, a deposit place for old coins and charters and the collection of college plate which contains the founder's cup with a statue of Mary Magdalen in flowing hair on the cover." Of Pembroke College, Cambridge, Mr. Arnold wrote, " On festival days there is still brought forth from the college plate the silver-gilt cup with the old Gothic inscription presented by Mary de Valencia." Of the depredations of former fanaticism and the loss of plate, ornament and art, it is recorded that just before the Civil War the ecclesiastical " visitors " found in the college windows " six angels," " all of which we defaced." The " iron heel " of superstition passed through England then. There was that ruthlessness and wanton destruction which has been seen in more recent times on the Continent of Europe, happily held off from this favoured land by the sacrifice and blood of those who died to bar the German onslaught.