CANVASES, CARATS AND CURIOSITIES

What Antique Beer Tankards Tell Us About Ancient Monarchs

3 minute read

The worldwide fascination with antiques lies not just in their impressive age, but in the way that centuries ago, people used these prized objects much in the same way that we might today - say, for example, with an exquisite antique beer tankard. From the extravagant palaces of colonial-era Europe to the majestic estates of imperial China, wealthy individuals commissioned the creation of truly luxurious beer tankards so that they could - to put it succinctly - drink in style. While the function of these antiques is something that most people could relate to, the expert artistry and skill used in their design and construction is probably not. Let's take a look at some of the most beautiful antique beer tankards we've ever stocked and, along the way, gain an increased appreciation for the artistic, aesthetic, and historical lessons they can teach us:

Large Chinese Export Silver Beer Tankard: This mid-19th century silver tankard made by Lee Ching of Canton, Shanghai and Hong Kong was made specifically for export, with a wealthy Western buyer in mind. The high-quality repoussé work reveals an exciting battle scene, while the handle's vibrant dragon sculpture evokes Chinese symbolism of good luck and strength. Price: $9,850

Large Chinese Export Silver Beer Tankard

This mid-19th century silver tankard made by Lee Ching of Canton, Shanghai and Hong Kong was made specifically for export, with a wealthy Western buyer in mind. The high-quality repoussé work reveals an exciting battle scene, while the handle's vibrant dragon sculpture evokes Chinese symbolism of good luck and strength.

Price: $9,850

German Ivory Miniature Beer Tankard

While the first German ivory sculptures date back to well over a thousand years ago, the ivory trade to Germany was cut off during Ottoman rule in Northern Africa and the art form subsequently went into decline there. In the late 15th century, when the Portuguese re-established reliable trade routes to sub-Saharan Africa, ivory began flowing back into central Europe and the famous wood carving artisans of Odenwald subsequently adapted their meticulous skills to ivory. This specialized artistic tradition grew throughout Germany for centuries, yielding such marvellous works as this 4.75-inch-high miniature beer tankard with a silver plate vessel. Price: $8,850 (SOLD)

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Chinese Garden Export Silver Beer Tankard

This double-skinned silver presentation tankard was built for export by Cutching of Canton in the mid-19th century. Its exterior repoussé shows a peaceful garden scene complete with animals, old men, trees, and a sky filled with wispy clouds. Just like the aforementioned Lee Ching tankard, this piece features a powerful looking dragon handle. Price: $14,850

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Hester Bateman George III Silver Beer Tankard

Made by Hester Bateman, who is widely regarded as the 18th century's top female silversmith, this sterling silver tankard harkens back to the golden age - or should we say silver age - of European royal families. The engraved crest on the exterior of this beer tankard is both immaculate in its detail as well as regal in its design. The hallmark is dated 1787, placing it just before the French Revolution. Price: $14,850

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Ivory Artemis and Actaeon Beer Tankard

Carved entirely out of ivory, this 6 3/4" x 12 1/8" beer tankard from the mid-19th century boasts a degree of detail and craftsmanship that is truly wondrous to behold. It tells the ancient Greek myth of Artemis and Actaeon, with the goddess Artemis represented in the nude on the lid, and Actaeon shown in fine detail on the frieze itself. The myth involves the hunter Actaeon stumbling across the goddess Artemis bathing in the forest, whereupon Artemis - outraged that a mortal man had see her nude body - turns him into a stag, at which point he is eaten by his own dogs. Price:$34,500 (SOLD)

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German Ivory Beer Tankard, Kings of Poland

Crafted circa 1850, this German ivory tankard pays homage to the 16th and 17th century Polish monarchs Sigismund I, Sigismund II Augustus, Stefan Báthory, and Sigismund III. A national symbol, in the form of the Polish white eagle, stands guard atop the  silver plate vessel and is itself immaculately carved out of ivory. At 12.5" in height, this antique beer tankard is a large, well-preserved testament to the refined tastes and sensibilities of the 19th century European nobility. Price: $38,500 (SOLD)

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