Diameter: 11.900 cm (bowl)
Room 47: Europe 1800-1900
Cup and cover, designed by William Burges
From London, England, AD 1878
The cup and cover are made of turned maple wood
with silver mounts, and decorated with blue, red and green
Burges (1827-81), the architect of Cardiff Castle and Castell Coch in Wales, was a maverick Victorian designer who drew his inspiration from French Gothic art and architecture. This cup was designed for his own use, and is inscribed around the rim in Latin in pseudo-medieval script: 'WILLIEMUS BURGES ME FIERI FECIT ANNO DM MDCCCLXXVIII' ('William Burges had me made in the year 1878'). Burges loved to indulge his sense of humour in his work, and in the well of the bowl he has included a self-portrait in the form of a 'grotesque' figure with the body of a bird and his own bearded head, engraved with his initials, WB.
The unusual shape is derived from Tudor covered cups or mazers, made out of turned maple wood. The Gothic influence is reflected in the use of the champlevé enamelling technique, whereby pools of translucent enamels are created in troughs within the silver mounts. Other typically medieval features include the scalloped borders, the band of scrolls around the rim of the lid, and the four contorted 'grotesque' figures in quatrefoils around the foot, which are derived from French thirteenth-century manuscript illumination.
J. Rudoe, Decorative arts 1850-1950: a c, 2nd ed. (London, The British Museum Press, 1994)
J. Mordaunt Crook, William Burges and the high Vi (London, John Murray, 1981)
J. Mordaunt Crook (ed.), The strange genius of William (Cardiff, National Museum of Wales, 1981)