The Lycurgus Cup by Unknown Artist

This remarkable cup depicts an episode from the legend of Lycurgus, King of the Thracians.


16.5 x 13.2 cm
Art Fund grant:
£2,000 ( Total: £20,000)
Acquired in:
Lord Rothschild

After angering the god Dionysus by driving him to the depths of the sea, Lycurgus attacked his maenads, one of whom - Ambrosia - was saved by Mother Earth, who transformed her into a vine. The scene shows Lycurgus struggling to escape from her clinging tendrils. Tiny amounts of colloidal gold and silver in the glass give it unusual properties; it appears opaque and pea-green in reflected light, but it becomes deep wine red if held up to the light. It was probably originally used as a lamp. It is the sole complete surviving example of this type of glass, technically known as dichroic.


Rothschild family; J.J. Dubois.

Venue details

British Museum Great Russell Street, LONDON London WC1B 3DG 020 7323 8181

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