'BEAKERS' : A GATHERING OF 'GRAILS':
As the 'story' goes, King Arthur has just been charged by God (in the cloud)
with the sacred quest of finding the Holy Grail of the Last Supper -
and seeing (also in a cloud) a barely discernible iridescent cup :
‘Look well, Arthur ... for it is your sacred task to seek this Grail’.
The awe-filled Arthur begins his quest …soon encountering a French castle - in England.
He implores the Guard to tell his master, Guy de Loimbard,
that for food and a night’s shelter, he too can join the Grail quest.
However the French Guard responds with unassailable disinterest :
He's already got one.
King Arthur, puzzled by his response, challenges the soldier - who reassures :
Oh yes, it's very nice!
Arthur, stunned, asks,
Can we come up and have a look?
Access denied! - repeatedly.
Thus, it is with some disillusionment that Arthur’s quest gets going
…. and having only one dreadfully fuzzy shape
(in a cloud) as a guide,
.... A GOBLET ?
A very fine vessel
centering an arm clad in shimmering steel…holding aloft… A SCIMITAR !
(If you recall, Lady of the Lake, her arm clad in the purest shimmering samite,
had held 'aloft' Excalibur from the water, signifying Arthur was to carry the enchanted sword.)
A George III Silver Goblet
John Swift Jr., London, 1779
Of heavy gauge silver, with original gilt interior, as well as lovely beaded girdle and foot,
the bowl crested for Jolliffe of Somerset
or .... 'A BEAKER' !
This particular 'gu' form of beaker dates to China's Neolithic period, along the Yangxi River
Chinese Gu 'ritual vessels' in bronze date from the 11th-13th centuries (Shang Dynasty).
First Period Worcester Porcelain 'Gu' Beaker
Somewhat rare, this is a rather faithful British copy in porcelain,
trumpet-shaped with knopped lower section above a flaring foot (as has a goblet);
an underglaze hatched crescent mark verso
Cylindrical 'BEAKERS' date back at least 6000 years - abundant in Biblical times.
These simple tapering vessels, traditionally for alcohol, came into Britain about 2500 BC.
There was even a western European Neolithic culture named "Beaker Folk".
British silver beakers are usually made in three parts :
the sides from a sheet which is hammered into the round, then seamed vertically;
the base and foot wire applied separately - construction varying little through time.
That said, silver beakers are comparatively rare from Queen Anne period :
A Queen Anne Britannia Silver Beaker
William Gibson, London, 1702
Of heavy gauge silver in the Charles II form, the tapering circular body with
a part-fluted lower section below a rope-work border sided by punched decoration
A George III Silver Beaker
Aaron Lestourgen, London, 1774
With original gilt interior and crested with a cross above an ermine chapeau
(for the family of Kirkby of Northwest England)
A George III Silver Beaker
Charles Wright, London, 1775
with Arms the Browne family (Essex and Suffolk)
most likely either Anna Maria or Charlotte Brown (Ipswich),
prior to their respective marriages, as evidenced by the 'true lovers' knot' above
While beakers are a good candidate for Arthur's sought-after 'Grail',
these lovely small 'silver beakers' were commonly used in England only after c1560....
.... A 'GLASS VESSEL' ?
Glass drinking vessels have also been around since the Dynastic Egyptian era.
And in time, the perfected British lead glass even began to overshadow the prestigious silver beaker,
thereby reducing the their occurrence - but once again - in the 18th century.
Here’s a rather grand glass 'beaker-like' vessel, onto which someone has thoughtfully mounted a handle -
very helpful for large amounts of .... 'spirit':
A Large George III Engraved Handled Glass Tankard
Of impressive size and weight, well engraved with the conjoined script monogram HB,
sided by engraved hops, above an applied band, and engraved barley.
or .... 'A CRUCIFORM' !
named after.... 'The CROSS' !
George II Cruciform Decanter
England, c1740 (the earliest clear decanters, c1720)
having a 8-paneled base and high kick-up verso,
the 4 wide and 4 narrow panels, and the kick-up providing rapid cooling for wines;
the three applied neck rings supported strings for stoppers and identification tags
Provenance : Bernard Watney - a well known 'ceramics collector'
These early 'cruciform decanters' remain as the predecessor to the stoppered clear glass decanters of today..
Incredible symbolism! – but not the sparest resemblance to the cup (in the cloud).
So with all this muddle, Arthur and his knights forge on through repetitive (ridiculous) trials.
Still being unable to meet the commands of his quest, Arthur becomes utterly disheartened -
particularly since he doesn't know exactly where-or-what-he-is-seeking!
He and his Knights (Robin, Belvedere, Launcelot, and Galahad) decide
it might be easier to find the illusive Grail if each searches separately.
...Robin the 'not-so-brave' just runs away…
'Yes, Brave Sir Robin turned about
And gallantly he chickened out!'
'BECKONING BEACONS' :
Meanwhile !! … Sir Galahad is led to the Castle Anthrax,
by a very brightly lit 'beacon'…in the form of a glowing golden 'grail'!
He pounds the door, demanding entry and to see 'the Holy Grail'.
However, this castle is home to ladies of some 'question',
one being the naughty Zoot, who frequently
sets light to their 'fake grail-shaped neon beacon'.
Galahad : It's not the real Grail?
It’s a 'SWEETMEAT'.
George II Pedestal (Silesian) Stem Sweetmeat Glass*
The quite heavy ogee bowl above a multi-teared knop and
6-sided moulded pedestal (Silesian) stem
with triple ring teared basal knop - a magnificent piece of glass!
*Sweetmeat refers to sweet foods or delicacies prepared with sugar or honey,
particularly candies and candied fruit.
In the 17th century, creation of such delicacies became possible in part
due to the importation of large quantities of sugar from Brazil and Caribbean.
They were served in small goblet-form glassware, in ceramics, and in small silver baskets.
As well, the fork - condemned by early 17th century British clergy ('furca' means 'pitchfork'!) -
was allowed only for succulent - and sticky - sweetmeats!
Fortunately, Galahad is swept away by Launcelot from the dangers of Anthrax Castle.
And so he continues with King Arthur and his fellow knights,
enduring even more ludicrous trials in their totally unsuccessful search for the Holy Grail.
However .... DESPAIR NOT !
It seems that their humble search still continues today....
looking within any cupboard, church or noble castle.... always diligently…
for that 'beacon of enlightenment', on the horizon
(or in the clouds),
always heeding these wise and hopeful words :
"Always look on the 'BRIGHT' side of life…"
A Mid-18th Century Cast Silver Harlequin Taperstick
The small harlequin standing on a mount,
his raised arms supporting a fluted drip pan and spool form socket.
The harlequin taperstick apparently has no corresponding candlesticks!
(...the music continues...)
"Cheer up, Brian. You know what they say.
Some things in life are bad,
They can really make you mad.
Other things just make you swear and curse.
Always look on the 'BRIGHT' side of life!"
A Good Pair of George III Silver Candlesticks
John Roberts & Co, England, 1813
The baluster and waisted standards with floral and upright acanthus leaf embossing
over anthemion-embossed shaped hexagonal bases with gadrooned edges,
each base and bobeche bearing an engraved crest :
a stag’s head erased, attired
"When you're chewing on life's gristle,
Don't grumble, give a whistle!
And this'll help things turn out for the best.
Always look on the 'BRIGHT' side of life!"
Good Set of Four George IV Silver Candlesticks
Creswick & Co., Sheffield, England, 1820
Of excellent quality and form,
the tapering stems with vertical columns of acanthus leaves,
the knops and gadrooning of acanthus and flowerheads; fully marked to the footrims
"….Always look.... on the 'BRIGHT'.... side of life!"
“Venus”, depicted above on the 8-pointed star, with a mirror and musical instrument.
The planet Venus - so bright
in the night sky -
is known both the 'Evening Star'and the'Morning Star'
It is said that she lifted Julius Caesar's soul to the heavens.
... GOODNIGHT ! …
And A VERY 'MERRIMENT' CHRISTMAS TO ALL !
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'Venus & Company : on Life!, Hearts & Laughter'
'Christmas Song', a Spoken Improvisation
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Above Illustrations :
Quotes : “Venus”, Illumination, Broeder Gheraerts Natural History, Utrecht, Netherlands, 15th century;
Wolfenbüttel, Herzog August Library, Cod. Guelf. 18.2 Aug. 4 °, fol. 124r.
Inventory Photography, including The Golden Grail image : Millicent F. Creech
Quotes & Lyrics : Creative Commons
"Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" is a comedy song written by Monty Python member Eric Idle
that was first featured in the film Monty Python's "Life of Brian" to promote the film
being released a single as a double A-side with "Brian" in the UK on 16 November 1979
(Lyrics, Creative Commons)
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Please click the above images or titles for more information and images.
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