The title cups defines a broad spectrum of vessels from drinking cups and chalices to two-handled lidded cups used for ceremonial or presentation purposes (see trophies below for the latter).
Inverted bell-shaped cups on spreading stems, often with covers and impressive finials were popular in the late 15th century.
Steeple cups are a uniquely English style of cup, dating back to the Elizabethan and Stuart periods between 1590 and the 1630’s. These statuesque, egg shaped cups standing on a tall spreading foot, have a characteristic obelisk finial embellishing the domed cover. The function of such cups appears to be either a religious one, where the cup was used as a chalice, or a secular one, where the cup was for ornamental purposes.
Small wine cups and/or goblets supported by a stem and foot were fashionable during the 1600’s, but by the late 1700’s two handled cups known as ‘porringers’, caudle cups’ or ‘posset pots’ came into vogue. This style of cup continued to develop and by the mid-late 1800’s decorated and ornamented two handled cups of ogee form were produced. A slight variation in style during the 1900’s, creating taller, more majestic pieces with embossed and chased decoration established the presentation cup in the form we recognise today.
The word ‘trophy’ is derived from the Greek word ‘tropaion’, from the verb ‘troupé’, ‘to rout’, or the Latin word ‘trophaeum’ meaning ‘monument to victory’.
A trophy is an item taken in war, hunting or competition as evidence of victory. This concept was first demonstrated by the Greeks who displayed the ‘trophies’ of war, such as dead warriors or entire ships at the site of victory. The Romans, in a slightly more civilised manner, erected monuments or special trophies in cities such as Rome, in tribute to the victors.
Examples of trophies in the form of silver chalices or two-handled cups (such as the Kyp Cup), from the late 1600’s have been preserved. Such items were presented to winners of sporting events such as horse racing.
Trophies originally had a cup or chalice form, but over time, silver bowls and plates also became acceptable trophies.
A few famous trophies presented today are:
The most prestigious and oldest active trophy in international sailing – first presented in 1851 is an ornate bottomless ewer crafted in 1848 by Garrad & Co.
The Wimbledon Championships is the oldest tennis tournament in the world.
The first competition held in 1877 was the Gentlemen’s Singles. The classical silver gilt two-handled cup with an impressive pineapple finial presented to the men’s singles champion is still presented today.
The large sterling silver salver, known as the Venus Rosewater Dish, made by the renowned silversmiths Elkington & Co. was first presented to the winner of the ladies singles competition in 1886.
The Football Association Challenge Cup competition is the oldest association football competition in the world. It was first held in 1871.
The present FA Cup trophy is the fourth trophy to be used – the first was stolen (and melted down), the second was sold (and may now be seen at the National Football Museum). The third trophy made in 1911 is too fragile to be used, so a replica was made in 1992, and it is this magnificent sterling silver two handled cup which is still presented today.