Simple though this humble cup may appear it has, in common with all of J Collins & Son’s fascinating pieces, a wonderful story to tell.
It is in fact a fine Charles II 17th century lignum vitae wassail bowl, having a thin rim. It has four bands of reeded lines within a central concave moulded section and raised on a short stem. The spreading base has turned decoration with a shallow stepped and rounded foot. The interior has historic cracks to the base, one of which protrudes to the underside of the bowl, but when sitting on a table is not noticeable unless inspected. These shrinkage cracks are quite common with wassail bowls, as made from a single piece of lignum vitae and they are subjected to hot alcoholic beverages. It has an exceptionally good rich colour with an excellent patination.
Wassail bowls were exclusively made of a hard wood called lignum vitae, ‘tree of life’. These bowls were filled with a hot alcoholic liquid including wine and occasionally also with an assortment of spices etc. They were used for various ceremonial, festive or convivial gatherings called wassailing, when often the bowl was carried round the streets at Christmas and New Year by maidens, who sang carols and verses. Small wassail bowls were also handed round the table for each guest to drink a toast. Larger ones were placed upon the table and dipper cups were used to drink from or to fill other drinking vessels.
8¾ in. (22 cm.) High
7¾ in. (19.5 cm.) DiameterEnglish Circa 1680