Tankard engraved with scenes depicting the Fire of London and the Great Plague

Maker: I N (British, mid-late 17th century)

Date: 1675/76

Culture: British, London

Medium: Silver

Dimensions: Overall (confirmed): 7 1/2 x 9 1/4 x 6 in., 37 oz. 13 dwt. (19.1 x 23.5 x 15.2 cm, 1.171kg)

Classification: Metalwork-Silver

Credit Line: Gift of Mrs. Henry S. Morgan, 1986

Accession Number: 1987.54

Description

The tankard form evolved from earlier, more rounded juglike drinking vessels for one person. The large tankard illustrated here presumably served more than one person. It commemorates a London magistrate, Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey (1621–1678), for exemplary conduct during the great plague and fire that struck London in 1665–66. For his actions, Godfrey was knighted by Charles II and given an immense silver vase of 800 ounces. He was murdered on Hampstead Heath in 1678, shortly after receiving the first anti-Catholic depositions in the Popish Plot; the culprits were never identified, although contemporary opinion blamed Godfrey's political enemies.

The sides of the tankard are engraved with scenes of the plague and fire, Latin inscriptions describing Godfrey's conduct during the crises and the king's gratitude, and the arms of both men. The tankard is one of six, all inscribed "ex. Dono E. BG" and made by two different makers in two different years: 1673–74 by the Master I.N.—this example—and 1674–75. Although all the tankards were made before Godfrey's death, it is likely that they were given to friends in his memory by his brother, and that tankards in stock at a retailer were purchased with funds left in his will for such gifts, as was a common practice.

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