Wine cistern

Maker: Lewis Mettayer (British, active 1700, died 1740)

Date: 1709–10

Culture: British, London

Medium: Silver

Dimensions: Overall (confirmed): 16 × 32 1/2 × 19 13/16 in., 31 lb. (40.6 × 82.6 × 50.3 cm, 14.1 kg)

Classification: Metalwork-Silver

Credit Line: Gift of Irwin Untermyer, 1968

Accession Number: 68.141.132


Wine cisterns were common in Europe, but do not come into general use in England until the late seventeenth century. The period of their greatest utilization was the eighteenth century. This wine cooler now bears the coat of arms of William Wyndham Grenville and his wife Anne Pitt, who were married in 1792. The original owner is unknown, although the two seahorses that form the prominent handles may refer to his or her coat of arms.

In spite of its imposing size and precious material, this wine cistern probably would have been placed on the floor where, filled with water, it served to keep bottles of white wine cool until needed at table. Its form, curving in both the vertical and horizontal sections, presented a difficult shape for symmetrical ornamentation, here executed with exactitude and a high degree of refinement.