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Wager cup

  • Place of origin:

    Holland (possibly, made)
    Flanders (possibly, made)
    Antwerp (possibly, made)

  • Date:

    1580-1600 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Raised and cast silver-gilt with <i>vetro a retorti</i> glass

  • Credit Line:

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

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Gold, Silver and Mosaics, Room 70, The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Galleries, case 6

Stürzbecher, or “somersault cup”, is a German term for a vessel with a stem but no foot; when empty it must stand inverted. It is a type of wager cup, popular in Germany and Holland during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, which required the drink to be consumed entirely before the cup could be put down. Often broken drinking glasses were re-made into stürzbecher but glasses were also made specifically to be mounted in silver. The glass and mounts of this cup appear to be contemporary and so it is difficult to establish whether this cup had a previous incarnation.

Vetro a retorti was a glassmaking technique developed in Venice in the sixteenth century and practised in the Netherlands contemporaneously. It involves laying parallel canes of glass, which have threads embedded within them in vertical or spiral patterns. These canes are then flattened and fused together with heat to achieve the resulting glass.

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

Conical vetro a retorti glass bowl with white filaments with a compressed spherical knop. The openwork silver-gilt mount has stamped and engraved decoration. It is surmounted by an openwork cage with reeded and corded bands with applied pendant rings. Within the cagework is a pendant bell, topped by a baluster-and-foliage finial.

Place of Origin

Holland (possibly, made)
Flanders (possibly, made)
Antwerp (possibly, made)


1580-1600 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Raised and cast silver-gilt with vetro a retorti glass


Height: 25.5 cm, Diameter: 14.5 cm, Weight: 300 g

Object history note

Provenance: Baron van Steengarcht. Lord Astor of Hever. Sale, Chritie's, Geneva, lot 67, November 17, 1983.

Historical context note

The German term 'Stürzbecher' means "somersault cup" and refers to a type of vessel with a stem but no foot, which must thus stand inverted when empty. It falls into the general categoryof wager cups, the contents of which were supposed to be consumed at a single draft.

Descriptive line

Conical vetro a retorti glass bowl with silver-gilt mounts; Holland or Flanders, late 16th century.

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

Schroder, Timothy. The Gilbert collection of gold and silver. Los Angeles (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) 1988, cat. no.140, pp. 519-21. ISBN.0875871445

Labels and date

(Gallery 70, case 6)
5. ‘Somersault cup’ (Sturzbecher)
A Sturzbecher or ‘somersault cup’ is a stemmed vessel with no foot on which to balance. Since it must either be held or placed upside down, its contents had to be consumed in a single gulp.
Southern Netherlands (now Belgium), possibly Antwerp
Glass and gilded silver
Museum no. Loan:Gilbert.47-2008 [16/11/2016]


Silver-gilt; Glass


Raising; Casting




Metalwork Collection

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