Cup thumbnail 1
Cup thumbnail 2
Not currently on display at the V&A


1617 (made)
Place of origin

Standing Cup of turned and engraved pearwood, bearing the Royal Arms of James I, a dragon, a stag, a phoenix, and inscriptions.

Object details

Object type
Materials and techniques
Turned and engraved pearwood
Brief description
Turned and engraved pearwood, with the arms of James I, England, 1617
Physical description
Standing Cup of turned and engraved pearwood, bearing the Royal Arms of James I, a dragon, a stag, a phoenix, and inscriptions.
  • Height: 30.2cm
  • Bowl diameter: 16.8cm
Measurements taken from paper records - not checked on object
Marks and inscriptions
  • 'BY VERTUOUS LIVING DOTH…u honour rise: an evil live brings infamie and shame to follow his Counsell that is most wise brings endless Glory and immortall fame and such as on earth Gods Glory Do advance shall ever BE had in Remembrance' ([1] On bowl)
  • 'But sure the name of evil Doers shall rott: Eternall wo shall fale vnto their Lott: For every one shall Receive according to the works Donne' (On bowl [2])
  • 'Drinke well and welcome You that CHRISTIANS BE: You that have sured faith and sound Repentance…' (On foot)
  • '1617' (Date of production, located above the back of the stag.)
Credit line
Bequeathed by E. S. Clarke, Esq.
Object history
Note on RP 13/3789: 'The two English cups of engraved wood, one bearing the Royal Arms and the date 1617 and the other (with lid) [W.51-1913] bearing the date 1648, are both most interesting examples and would be valuable additions to the collections'
Historical context
It had been suggested that wooden cups of this type may have been fashionable communion cups, although the use of wood as a vessel for the host had been forbidden by the Canons of Winchester as early as 1071. The identification of a silver chalice which replicates W.50-1913, although slightly smaller, supports a previously unsubstantiated hypothesis that wooden cups of this type were patterns or try-outs for silver chalices: a silver chalice formerly in the Robert Hoe collection, sold NY 1911, lot 1397 ("The Connoisseur" vol.2 (Jan-April 1902), p.51) bears the same inscriptions and same devices (personal communication from Malcolm Jones, March 2018).

Pinto relates that they could have been the cups of Royal Cupbearers, and though some of the crests relate to holders of this office, most had held it before the reign of James I. He also proposed that they may have been 'part of the insignia of some exclusive 17th century society', similar to, or perhaps an ancestor to, the Honorable Order of Little Bedlam, a social club founded by the 5th Earl of Exeter in 1684.

See also
Edward H. Pinto, Treen and other Wooden Bygones. (London, 1969), pp.34-7
The decoration would most likely have been executed with a hot thin steel implement on a carefully prepared surface, which would have been very smooth and probably glazed first. This would have been difficult to achieve, as heat could not be controlled very carefully, and so the designs may have been first finely gouged or incised and then later darkened.
Subjects depicted
Associated objects
Bibliographic references
  • H. Clifford Smith, Catalogue of English Furniture & Woodwork,(London 1930), 623
  • 'Heraldic Wooden Cups of the Jacobean Period,' by H. Clifford Smith, in 'The Connoisseur.' January, 1924.
Accession number

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Record createdJuly 25, 2007
Record URL
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