Germany or Bohemia
Silver and gilt-silver with applied opaque enamel
H. 6 1/4 in. (10.6 cm)
Purchase, The Cloisters Collection, 1983 (1983.125a,b)
Unique in form and decoration, this double cup is engraved around the lid with the names of the Three Kings: Caspar + Melchior + Waltazar. On the interior of the lower section is an applied enameled roundel with a helm crested by three upended conical Jewish hats reserved in silver against a red opaque enamel background. The upper section serves as a cover, and the circular fitting acts as a handle and a foot when this section is used as a cup. At the base of the upper foot is an applied escutcheon with three Jewish hats reserved in silver that emanate from the points of the shield and are joined in the center at their peaks. Double cups were used to toast love, devotion, or farewells, to invoke the memory of the dead, and in celebrating Epiphany, a holiday observed by both Christians and Jews in the Middle Ages. Epiphany celebrations were believed to mark the true New Year and were a propitious time for prognostications and for family festivities at which specially baked breads were shared and eaten for good luck. The heraldic devices indicate a Jewish context for this cup.