Even in the middle of the North Atlantic ocean, it seems as though there are interesting bits of silver to bump into. This summer I have had the incredible pleasure of travelling to and from England aboard the Cunard lines flagship Queen Mary 2. While wandering around the ship one day, my eye lit upon The Cunard Cup.
The Cunard Cup aka The Boston Cup
Inside a glass case is this simply amazing commemorative cup. I’d estimate that it is 30-34 inches high and perhaps 16-18 inches across at the widest point. Adorned with sea creatures and shells, it is a stunning piece of silver work. The only other cup I can think of that comes close to this one in terms of size is the Stanley Cup.
This cup was given to Samuel Cunard, founder of Cunard lines, by the people of Boston in 1840. It commemorates the arrival of the Britannia to Boston and the city’s gratitude at being chosen as the US seaport for Cunard’s transatlantic service.
In addition to the cup itself, apparently Mr. Cunard received 1,873 invitations to dinner — enough to dine out for over 5 years. Hmm…I wonder how may he accepted and who wrote the polite notes of regret to those he could not attend?
Realism before it’s time
Unfortunately, it was in an indoor location with no natural light and behind glass under harsh spotlights. That combined with the motion of the ship made it really difficult to photograph. I’ve done my best…but these shots only give you an inkling of it’s glory.
Happily, despite being behind glass, the maker’s mark is clearly visible. Lows, Ball and Co. made it. John J. Low was a Boston silversmith active in the 1820’s and the company he left behind went through a number of name changes…we know it best as Shreve, Crump & Low.
Look at the realism and details around that makers mark; the finish on the shells and the wavy ruffles on the overhanging rim. It’s worth keeping in mind that realism in painting didn’t really take off until the 1850’s and the Aesthetic era in silver is generally dated as being from 1870-1900. The cup was really ahead of it’s time.
According to Cunard lore, the cup once had a lid, but no one knows what happened to it. Once I learned that, I immediately wished Cunard could be persuaded to use it as the vase that holds the huge arrangement of flowers in the main lobby of the ship. I expect my family is quite glad I didn’t take that up with any of the officers or crew.
Thanks to everyone who wrote in asking where I’ve been. Unexpectedly, we had to do some things to the house — keeping it full of noise, chaos, and dust for several months (which I find really difficult to write in) and then we went away and I totally unplugged. It was wonderful. We had a great time, including being able to see my Grandma (she who helped inspire Silver Magpies) and celebrate her 105th birthday!