Stirrup cups first appeared in Great Britain during the 1760’s. However, little is known about their specific origin. The most plausible explanation for their purpose was for making toasts prior to departure of a hunt whilst seated on horseback with both feet in stirrups. Before the arrival of stirrup cups, dram cups and tot cups were generally used in Britain in similar contexts.
Stirrup cup designs
With regards to overall form, stirrup cups are never found with feet. This element in design was most likely devised for practical purposes. However, perhaps this was also implemented to encourage the consumer to finish the contents! Stirrup cups can be found crafted from a wide range of materials although the majority are produced in either silver or ceramic. The most common stirrup cups come in the form of foxes heads with some rarer examples being modelled as rabbit, hare, stag, horse, wild boar, trout or hunting dog heads.
Collecting stirrup cups
Stirrup cups are highly collectible and often expensive due to their decorative nature, diversity, size and social status amongst many of their collectors. Other culminating factors such as being in pairs or large sets will help to increase their individual value. As always, provenance plays an important role in achieving greater values at auction if for example the stirrup cup can be traced back to an actual hunt or belonged to a prominent individual or family.
If you have any stirrup cups you would like to sell or have valued, pleasecontact Robin Newcombe, silver specialist at Grand Auctions, Folkestone,Kent for further details.