Silversmith Hal Messel has worked with the British Museum and LGBTQ charity Stonewall to “creatively reimagine” and recast the Warren Cup, a Roman artefact depicting male same-sex acts. Messel has produced eight solid silver Pride Cups using a unique mould of the original cup, each tinted a colour of the original eight-striped LGBT rainbow flag designed by Gilbert Baker in 1978.
The Warren Cup is thought to originate from 1st Century AD and, when acquired by The British Museum for £1.8m in 1999, it was the most expensive single purchase by the museum at the time.
Messel’s project was inspired by the “challengingly explicit” Roman artwork, which shows relationships that were “widely found and in fact celebrated in Roman art”; yet, he continues, “for hundreds of years, same-sex relationships have been all but erased from history, as so few artefacts have survived – or have been overlooked, ignored or hidden away for fear of public outcry.
“This project is all about tackling assumptions and raising awareness around how gender identity and sexual orientation continue to remain on the fringes of so much contemporary art.
“It’s important for us to consider as society why works of art like the Warren Cup and the Pride Cups are considered by many to be more provocative today, 2,000 years on, than they were to the Romans, and what that says about us as a society and how we view LGBT people.”
Each cup is said to reference the meaning behind each of the rainbow flag’s original eight colours: sex (hot pink), life (red), healing (orange), sunlight (yellow), nature (green), magic/art (turquoise), serenity (indigo) and spirit (violet). The silversmith has spent a year developing the experimental colouring technique used to achieve the metal tinting.
The Pride Cups will first be exhibited at the British Museum’s Enlightenment Gallery, then displayed at Christie’s and Brown Hart Gardens, before being sold to collectors with a donation from the artist and his gallery Pygmalion going to support Stonewall’s work.
We recently covered Harry’s Pride campaign for 2019, shot by Ryan Duffin; and in 2017 Kara Melchers wrote for It’s Nice That about brands’ hit-and-miss creative reaction to Pride.