Lawrences Auctioneers: Elizabeth I silver steeple cup gallops into auction
Big and tall with a ‘steeple’ atop to make them even grander in scale, steeple cups were thought to have been secular vessels used in a domestic setting when honoured guests were invited to feasts. Dining in Elizabethan times was a communal affair: the highest-ranking people sat at the top of the table whilst those from the lower social orders were placed at the furthest end of the table. Indeed, salt was so expensive at that time that the noblest guests sat in comfort, the salt close at hand, whilst the less important diners were seated furthest from the luxurious condiment, hence the expression ‘He’s a bit below the salt’.
The first owner of this magnificent silver antique was John Walton, the Archdeacon of Derby from 1590-1603, whose name appears on the foot. However, the owner’s late grandfather used to train horses and his horse, ‘Don Sancho’ won the Irish Grand National in 1928. Remarkably, this splendid cup (43cm/17 inches high) was presented to him as the prize and a small silver disc identifies its presentation.
The steeple cup has come to Lawrences from a descendant of that horse owner. Offered now as ‘the property of a gentleman’, the steeple cup carries an estimate of £30,000-40,000. With over 2,200 lots on offer, the July sale can be viewed online at lawrences.co.uk
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