Pair of silver scyphi (cups) with relief decoration

Early Imperial, Augustan
late 1st century B.C.–early 1st century A.D.
Silver with gilding
Overall: 3 3/4 x 8 1/8in. (9.5 x 20.6cm) diameter of bowl 5in. (12.7cm)
Gold and Silver
Credit Line:
Purchase, Marguerite and Frank A. Cosgrove Jr. Fund and Lila Acheson Wallace Gift, 1994
Accession Number:
1994.43.1, .2
  • Description

    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 and 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 are partially gilt. The cupids, several of whom are shown dancing and playing instruments, may be associated with Dionysiac festivities and so are eminently suitable as subjects on vessels meant for a drinking party. But here the figures have little, if any, real symbolism 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.

  • References

    Picón, Carlos A. 2007. Art of the Classical World in the Metropolitan Museum of Art: Greece, Cyprus, Etruria, Rome New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, no. 387, pp. 334, 482.

    Metropolitan Museum of Art. 2012. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Guide. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, p. 79.

  • See also
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History