CANVASES, CARATS AND CURIOSITIES

Vessels of History: An Exploration of the Chalice

2 minute read

The chalice, an object steeped in religious, devotional, and cultural history, has long been heralded as a symbol for redemption, honor, and various other celebratory uses. Often also referred to as a goblet, this object is a large footed cup intended, to hold a drink. Perhaps the most telling sign that an object is a chalice is the node, or pummel that separates the stem and the cup, making elevation and holding the object easier. The chalice is utterly immersed in a variety of instances throughout history, conjuring up religious and devotional ideas.

Russian Silver Gilt and Enamel Chalice

The chalice has been a symbol and integral part of Christianity since antiquity. This 19th century chalice is an excellent example of the artistry and importance that was a part of crafting these unique vessels

Since antiquity, the chalice has rested as one of the most important liturgical symbols of Christianity. As a fundamental object used in celebration of the Holy Eucharist, the chalice is one of the most sacred vessels in Christian worship. In fact, evidence of the earliest uses of the chalice can be seen in ancient calf-skin illuminated manuscripts, such as the Book of Kells.

Featuring wonderful plaques of various saints and symbols of martyrdom surrounded by repousséd and chased motifs, this exceptional 19th-century silver gilt chalice is a beautiful specimen of Russian silver craftsmanship

Featuring wonderful plaques of various saints and symbols of martyrdom surrounded by repousséd and chased motifs, this exceptional 19th-century silver gilt chalice is a beautiful specimen of Russian silver craftsmanship

In ancient Rome, the chalice was often a common fixation at lavish banquets, blanketing tables amongst sumptuous foods and company in extravagant dress.

Legends in ancient literature and art surrounding chalices have fascinated cultures for centuries. The quest for the Holy Grail, perhaps the most enduring, is said to be the chalice present at the Last Supper, and that object which was present at the crucifixion. The search for the vessel landed in the principal quest of King Arthur and his troupe, solidifying this particular chalice as one of the most fascinating enigma’s in history. As the culture of the Middle Ages lost touch of the quest for this chalice, it’s mysterious presence was once again reignited by writers such as C.S. Lewis and artists of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. All the while, popularizing chalice and goblet-like vessels.

 Russian Silver Gilt and Enamel Chalice

Considered cherished possessions of the Church, religious objects seldom become available for acquisition, especially examples that embody both masterful execution and spiritual significance

In 19th century Russia, the chalice object prevailed as an object of splendor and prestige. Royalty and nobility would often give a chalice as gifts to close friends and even churches. In Russia, this era saw a burgeoning class of skilled craftsman and artisans. Consequently, chalices were adorned with some of the most sophisticated ornamentation that had been seen: delicate embossing, lavish enameling, and intricate medallions affixed to the surface.

This vessel bears the mark of master assayer Nikolai Lukich Dubrovin

This vessel bears the mark of master assayer Nikolai Lukich Dubrovin, who is well known to have produced many religious objects

Today, in the art and antiques world, chalices are seen as windows into legendary history and the past. As witnesses to centuries of spiritual and cultural forces, the chalice and its numerous symbols are prized by collectors and connoisseurs alike.

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