Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.

Wager cup

  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1680 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Raised and cast silver, engraved brass and clockwork mechanism

  • Credit Line:

    The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Collection on loan to the Victoria and Albert Museum, London

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    On short term loan out for exhibition

Some wager cups tested the co-ordination of the drinker. This one required him to drink from the upturned skirt of the milkmaid without spilling liquid from her swinging pail below. It was later fitted with a clockwork mechanism so that the figure could roll upright along the table.

Outside the wealthiest court circles, 17th-century silver was used primarily for eating and drinking. The dining table was the heart of social activity, and novelty items were made for fashionable new drinks flavoured with spices and drinking games. The range of British silver for the home from this period (the first for which a representative quantity survives) demonstrates increasing foreign influences from France, the Netherlands and Portugal. The rising demand for fashionably decorated European silver from the 1660s onwards reflects Britain’s new wealth and political stability.

Sir Arthur Gilbert and his wife Rosalinde formed one of the world’s great decorative art collections, including silver, mosaics, enamelled portrait miniatures and gold boxes. Arthur Gilbert donated his extraordinary collection to Britain in 1996.

Physical description

Automaton in the shape of a woman in a long skirt, holding above her head a swinging cup supported by scroll brackets.The cup is chased with acanthus foliage and, on its base, a Tudor rose. The skirt, containing a clockwork automaton mechanism, and the baseplate are engraved with foliate.

Place of Origin

England (made)


ca. 1680 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Raised and cast silver, engraved brass and clockwork mechanism

Marks and inscriptions

Maker's mark RB with a mullet below; original scratch weight '7-10' at top of cup


Height: 17.7 cm, Width: 9.3 cm, Depth: 8.2 cm, Weight: 500 g

Object history note

Provenance: Sale Important English Silver, Sotheby's, London, 17 October 1985, lot 381 "The Property of a Lady"

Descriptive line

Wager cup, silver, brass and clockwork mechanism, England, ca.1680

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Art at Auction: The Year at Sotheby's 1985-1986. London; New York: Sotheby & Co., p. 262.
Smith, Eric J.G. 'Richard Blackwell & Son'. The Silver Society Journal, 2003, no. 14, pp.19, 25; image no. 7.
Schroder, Timothy. The Gilbert collection of gold and silver. Los Angeles (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) 1988, cat. no. 28, pp. 122-4. ISBN.0875871445


Silver; Brass (alloy)


Raising; Casting; Clock making; Engraving (incising)


Drinking; Metalwork; Containers; Games


Metalwork Collection

Large image request

Please confirm you are using these images within the following terms and conditions, by acknowledging each of the following key points:

Please let us know how you intend to use the images you will be downloading.