Bacon Cup


British Museum

British Museum

This silver-gilt standing cup is one of three cups known as 'The Bacon Cups'. They were made for Sir Nicholas Bacon (1509-79) in 1574 from the Great Seal of Mary I, queen of England (reigned 1552-58).At the death of each monarch, or at the change of Lord Chancellor, the Great Seal of England was defaced and replaced by another. It was part of the 'perquisite', or 'perk', of office that the Lord Chancellor and Keeper of the new Great Seal was allowed to keep the obsolete seal; they were usually melted down and used to make such commemorative items as salvers or cups. Sir Nicholas Bacon, one of the leading lawyers of the time, had risen to prominence under Mary I, and was appointed Keeper of the Great Seal to her successor, Elizabeth I (reigned 1558-1603) in 1558. The Bacon cups are the earliest surviving examples of cups made from the Great Seal.To mark his achievement of knighthood, Bacon had a cup made for each of his three sons, for whom he provided estates: the Redgrave Cup, the present example; the Stewkey (Stiffkey) Cup; and the Gorhambury Cup. They were bequeathed to his family as heirlooms, to be tied in perpetuity to the family's chief residence. Around the rim of the bowl is engraved 'A THYRDE BOWLE MADE OF THE GREAT SEALE OF ENGLANDE AND LEFT BY SYR NICHOLAS BACON KNYGHT LORDE KEEPER AS AN HEYRELOME TO HIS HOWSE OF REDGRAVE 1574'. The bowl of the cup is engraved with the arms and motto of Bacon; the family crest - a boar - takes pride of place on the finial.

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  • Title: Bacon Cup
  • Date Created: 1574/1574
  • Physical Dimensions: Height: 29.60cm
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: gilded; stamped; engraved
  • Registration number: 1915,0313.1
  • Production place: Made in London
  • Material: silver
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Bequeathed by Wodehouse, Edmond