Pair of skyphoi (cups) with relief decoration, late 1st century b.c.–early 1st century a.d.; Early Imperial, Augustan
Silver with gilding; Overall 3 3/4 x 8 1/8 in. (9.5 x 20.6 cm), Diam. of bowl 5 in. (12.7 cm)
Purchase, Marguerite and Frank A. Cosgrove Jr. Fund and Lila Acheson Wallace Gift, 1994 (1994.43.1,.2)
These silver cups represent Roman metalwork of the highest quality. They were undoubtedly produced by one of the leading Roman workshops that supplied the imperial family as well as affluent, cultured, private individuals—the same clientele for whom the villas around Rome and Naples were built, decorated, and furnished.
The cups are decorated in high relief with figures of cupids and partially gilt. The cupids, several of whom are shown dancing and playing instruments, may be associated with Dionysiac festivities and are thus eminently suitable on vessels meant for a drinking party. But the figures have little, if any, real symbolism here and were chosen simply because they formed an attractive group. Like many other pieces of ornate silverware, these cups were clearly intended as much for display as for use.