British Museum and Wiltshire Museum jointly acquire the Lacock Cup
"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.
Thank you to all Members who gave so generously to the Lacock Cup Appeal. Your contributions are greatly valued and we are pleased to announce that the British Museum and Wiltshire Museum have now jointly acquired the Cup, one of the most significant pieces of secular English medieval silver.
Valued at £1.3 million, the Cup was acquired with contributions from National Heritage Memorial Fund, John Studzinkski, The Art Fund, the British Museum Friends, The American Friends of the British Museum, and other contributions.
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 Lacock Cup is now on display in the Paul and Jill Ruddock Gallery of Medieval Europe 1050 – 1500, Room 40.