The Palmer Cup

WB.53     about 1200–1250 • Gilded and enamelled glass, silver-gilt foot • goblet

The Middle Eastern beaker was transformed into a goblet in France. One line in the Arabic inscription above the figures is in praise of wine and can be traced to the poet Kushajim (died around AD 961). Middle Eastern decorated glass had high status in medieval Europe, and was coveted by rulers and nobles. Later it was treasured in European courtly collections (Kunstkammern).

Curator's Description

Goblet of clear glass enamelled and gilded; mounted on foot of silver gilt embossed with fleurs-de-lis; inscription in gold on blue ground near edge; below, a prince seated between two attendants holding swords, beyond are three others, one holding a polo club; figures modelled in thick white enamel, thinly gilt with details in red and blue; goblet has flat foot-rim with turn-up inside; held in mount by leaves; stem embossed with pairs of birds sitting on branches; ribbed crystal knop; base embossed with fleur-de-lis in lozenge diaper.

This object was previously owned by Palmer-Morewood, and collected and bequeathed to the British Museum by Ferdinand Anselm Rothschild.

How big is it?

13.2 cm wide, 26.3 cm high, 13.2 cm deep, and it weighs 392.5g

Detailed Curatorial Notes

Provenance: At some point in its history the cup entered the collection of the Palmer-Morewood family, of Ladbroke in Warwickshire, who later sold it at Christie's, London, in July 1893, for £1732-10s to 'A.W.' - probably the dealer / collector Asher Wertheimer. Its history prior to this is unknown, although in Read 1902 (see bibliography) a presumably apocryphal story is related that it had been won by an ancestor of the Palmer-Morewood family during the crusades 'from the then king of France at a game of cards'. Following the Christie's sale it entered the collection of Baron Ferdinand Rothschild, and was probably bought by Wertheimer at auction on his behalf.

Commentary: The lines of Arabic around the rim of the glass are a poem in praise of wine. One line is attributed to the poet Kushajim (d. c.961) and says 'Repent! While the cup is in the hand of the beardless youth, and the sound of the secon and third [strings of the lute] is loud!'. The most notable comparisons with the cup, particularly relating to the distinctive way that the base of the glass beaker is constructed, include the 'Cup of Charlemagne' in the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Chartres (also with a contemporary French mount). A further two, with German mounts from the early 1400s, are in the Grünes Gewölbe in Dresden (inv. nos. IV 192 & IV 193); and another, which is unmounted, is the 'Luck of Edenhall' in the V&A, (inv. no. C.1 to B-1959).


  • 'Catalogue of Porcelain, Miniatures and Decorative Objects', Christie's, London, 17 July 1893, lot 132
  • Charles Hercules Read, 'The Waddesdon Bequest: Catalogue of the Works of Art bequeathed to the British Museum by Baron Ferdinand Rothschild, M.P., 1898', London, 1902, no. 53, pl. XIV
  • S.H.A.H, 'Ladbroke and its Owners', Paul & Mathew, Bury St. Edmunds, 1914, pp. 125-129 & illus.
  • H. C. Marillier, 'Christie's 1766 to 1925', Constable & Company Ltd, London, 1926, p.x
  • O.M. Dalton, 'The Waddesdon Bequest', 2nd edn (rev), British Museum, London, 1927, no.53, pl.VII
  • Anna Contadini, 'Poetry on enamelled glass: the Palmer Cup in the British Museum', in Rachel Ward (ed.), 'Gilded and Enamelled Glass from the Middle East', British Museum, London, 1998, pp.56-60
  • Hugh Tait, 'The Palmer Cup and related glasses exported to Europe in the Middle Ages', in Rachel Ward (ed.), 'Gilded and Enamelled Glass from the Middle East', British Museum, London, 1998, pp.50-55
  • Maria Queiroz Ribeiro & Jessica Hallett, 'Mamluk Glass in the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum', Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, 1999, pp.26-27
  • Hugh Tait, 'Venice: Heir to the Glassmakers of Islam or of Byzantium?', in Charles Burnett and Anna Contadini (ed.), 'Islam and the Italian Renaissance', The Warburg Institute, London, 1999, pp.77-104, figs. 2-3
  • Stefano Carboni & David Whitehouse, 'Glass of the Sultans', The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2001, p.242
  • Stefano Carboni, 'L’art du verre sous les Ayyoubides et les premiers décors émaillés et dorés', in 'L’Orient de Saladin, l’art des Ayyoubides', Institut du monde arabe, Paris, 2001, pp. 137-139 & illus.
  • Ingeborg Krueger, 'The Hope Goblet Reconsidered. II. An Art Historian's View', in 'Journal of Glass Studies', The Corning Museum of Glass, vol. 50, 2008, pp.171-178
  • Glyn Davies, 'New light on the Luck of Edenhall', Burlington Magazine, CLII, 2010, p.5, fig. 3
  • 'Art of the Islamic Worlds', Christie's Sale 5708, London, 4 Oct 2012, lot 105
  • Dora Thornton, 'A Rothschild Renaissance: Treasures from the Waddesdon Bequest', British Museum, London, 2015, pp.96-103.
  • References

    1. Read 1902: Read, Charles Hercules, The Waddesdon Bequest. Catalogue of the Works of Art Bequeathed to the British Museum by Baron Ferdinand Rothschild, M.P., 1898, London, BMP, 1902
    2. Dalton 1927: Dalton, Ormonde Maddock, The Waddesdon Bequest : jewels, plate, and other works of art bequeathed by Baron Ferdinand Rothschild., London, BMP, 1927

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