The Lacock Cup’s future at the British Museum is in your hands
"The finest surviving piece of English 15th-century secular silver"
Illumination from the College of Arms, Ms.Vincent 152,f.178. It is dated 1523, and shows a private feast in Nuremberg, celebrating the investiture with the Order of the Garter of Ferdinand Archduke of Austria.
With your help, the British Museum wishes to acquire the Lacock Cup. We hope to place it on permanent display in the Museum’s Medieval Europe Gallery (Room 40) which showcases many of the world’s greatest medieval treasures.
On loan to the British Museum since 1962, the Lacock Cup was used ceremonially at the Church of St Cyriac in Lacock until the 1980s. Only a handful of such cups remain, and there are none comparable in public ownership and on display.
Containing almost 1kg of silver, its survival is particularly noteworthy due to how valuable it would have been as bullion – most comparable pieces were melted down during the Reformation.
Constructed from hand-hammered sheet metal soldered together, the Lacock Cup is a piece of breathtakingly refined craftsmanship. The trumpet-shaped cup is of a type known as a ‘standing’ or ‘covered’ cup and has a removable lid at the line of cast, gilded, open-worked silver to enable liquid to be held and shared.
Made in England before 1450, it is thought to have been given to the Church of St Cyriac in Lacock in the early 17th century. In a secular setting, its use would have been to display the owner’s wealth when it was shown alongside other items of silverware as part of a feast. Recognisably the property of the donor, its presence in a candlelit ecclesiastical setting would have brought similar levels of admiration.
The Cup’s current rarity belies its typicality in the period of its manufacture – a similar vessel was presented by the Lord Mayor of London to Henry VI after his coronation. It is commonly found as the central gift in contemporary images of the Adoration of the Magi, and its presence in the coat of arms of the Goldsmiths Company still used today shows the importance of such items as showpieces for craftsmen of the period.
Naomi Speakman, Curator, Late Medieval Europe, and Lloyd DeBeer, Project Curator, Late Medieval Europe.
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