Ostrich Cup

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England, London
John Spilman (English, born Bavaria, died 1626)

Ostrich Cup, 1590

Silver gilt and ostrich egg
12 1/2 in. (32 cm) with cover
Mary Swissler Oldberg Memorial Fund, 2009.113

John Spilman served as the royal jeweler for Queen Elizabeth I of England, and based on the presence of the royal insignia, the Tudor rose, inside this cup, there is every reason to believe that the queen was its original owner. When the cup was acquired by the Whitfield family, it assumed heirloom status, which probably accounts for its inclusion in a still life by Pieter Gerritsz. van Roestraeten. In the 16th century, ostrich eggs, which come from South Africa, were considered extremely exotic because they were associated with the mythic griffin and referred to as “gripe eggs.”

— Permanent collection label