Standing cup

Artist or maker:
van Vianen, Christian (b.1600-1605, d.1667)
Place of production:
London, England, United Kingdom
Type of object:
Accession number:


This extraordinary cup was made in Christian van Vianen’s London workshop in 1640-41.

Van Vianen (c.1600-1667) was a member of an illustrious family of silversmiths, based in Utrecht. His father Adam was responsible for the creation of the revolutionary auricular style, and his uncle Paul was goldsmith to the Emperor Rudolph II in Prague. Auricular, one of the most extreme stylistic manifestations, stands on the cusp between Mannerism and Baroque. So-called by art historians because its curves echo the fleshy lobe of the ear, the style was a complex refinement of the exaggerated natural and marine forms and grotesque figures used by mannerist silversmiths. This sophisticated expression of skill appealed only to the most cultivated of patrons. Admired in the Netherlands, Hamburg and Prague, it was in essence a court style; the writhing, dissolving shapes epitomised by Adam van Vianen's famous ewer of 1614 (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, BK-1976-75). As practised by the van Vianens, the style was also technically uncompromising, involving virtuoso raising, embossing and chasing, often from a single sheet of silver.

The impact of the van Vianen workshop was recognized in 1632, when Christian was invited to London by the Earl of Arundel, who paid him an annual pension of £40. It was during his London stay that van Vianen made and signed the superb dolphin basin of 1635 ( V&A, M.1-1918), and between 1636-42 supplied a set of altar plate for St George’s Chapel, Windsor. The Waddesdon cup also dates to this period, and uniquely, bears full London hallmarks, including Christian’s own maker’s or workshop mark. He seems to have returned to Utrecht in 1643, but by 1660 he was back, this time at the invitation of Charles II, who made him'Silversmith in Ordinary to his Matie. for Chasework within his Maties Closett and Bed Chamber & alsoe the Closett and Bed Chambr. of the Queene'. No marked work survives from this later London period.

The full peculiarities of Christian’s style are abundantly clear on this cup, the lobed bowl embossed with shell-like forms and grotesque masks, the stem supported by three putti, apparently struggling in a flow of molten metal. It is also (typically) technically superb, raised from a single sheet of heavy-gauge silver. Although it is not known for whom it was made, the cup was later owned by Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex, the sixth son of George III, who had his crest engraved on the bowl, and was also probably responsible for having the object gilded. This noted collector and antiquary, whose collection was sold in 1843, owned other silver by van Vianen. The cup’s immediate whereabouts following the Duke’s sale are unknown, but it was at Waddesdon by 1922, when it appears in Alice de Rothschild’s inventory. It seems likely that she acquired it as part of her re-furnishing of the Smoking Room following the departure of that part of her brother’s collection to the British Museum on his death.

The cup has another interesting element to its history in that it appears in a contemporary portrait of an unknown boy, by the Amsterdam artist Bartolomaeus van der Helst (c. 1613-1670), also now in the collections at Waddesdon (accession no. 12.2005). The painting is signed and dated 1657, presumably indicating that the cup was in Amsterdam at that point. The cup appears in its original, un-gilded state and is clearly recognizable. It is also one of the few instances of a contemporary depiction of a surviving piece of silver.

Pippa Shirley, 2012

Physical description

Dimensions (mm):
153 x 143
CV above a wheel
Maker's mark
on underside of foot

Lower case c
Date letter
on underside of foot

Crowned V (Dutch import mark)
Import mark
on outer edge of rim - in use between 1815-1953


The cup appears in a portrait of an unknown boy by the Amsterdam artist Bartolomeus van der Helst (b. 1613, d. 1670) painted in 1657, suggesting that it was in Holland at this date. It was later acquired by Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex and appears in his sale (Christie's, 22 June 1843, lot 594), described as "a triangular scalloped cup, of shell pattern, supported by 3 children". It was bought by the dealer Roussell for 32/-s per ounce. The next reference to the cup is in Alice de Rothschild's 1922 probate inventory for Waddesdon where it is listed in the Smoking Room, described as "a silver-gilt, shell-shaped cup, supported on 3 gilt figures of boys, Vianen, Dutch, early 17th century. With English hallmark added". There is no evidence to show from whom Alice acquired the cup. By descent to her great-nephew James de Rothschild (b. 1878, d. 1957); by descent to his wife Dorothy de Rothschild (b. 1895, d. 1988); by descent to the current owner.
Waddesdon, The Rothschild Collection (Rothschild Family Trust)
On loan snce 1997



Les collections exceptionnelles des Rothschild: Waddesdon Manor (Hors-série de l'Estampille/l'Objet d'Art, No. 14); Dijon; Éditions Faton; 2004; pp. 46-53, ill.
Michael Hall, An Acquisitive Gene: Lord Rothschild's Collecting for Waddesdon, Apollo, July 2007-August 2007, 44-49; fig. 4

Indexed terms