Special mugs are a special thing. But then everyone’s idea of 'special’ is so subjective. Take the poet Lord Byron. Old B-Rizzle was one of a very particular group of individuals throughout history who prized cups fashioned from the top half of a human skull. The story goes that one day, a skull was dug up by a gardener in the grounds of Byron's modest home, aka Newstead Abbey, and the Lord took such a fancy to it – waste not, want not and all – that he sent it to be polished and mounted for use as a drinking vessel. A spot of upcycling what ho!
Fast forward to the present day and a skull drinking cup – deemed rather opaquely by the auctioneers to have "an association" to Lord Byron – is for sale. Is it the real skull cup from the real Lord Byron? Well, that’s one conclusion, if the fairly damning words ‘SKULL DRINKING CUP USED BY LORD BYRON AT NEWSTEAD ABBEY’ inscribed on the cup's rim are to be believed. Then again, the valuer did hint at some possible skullduggery, pointing out that Lord Byron died in 1824, and the engraving on the skull cup appears to be from the end of the 19th century. He also added that this skull was smaller than the skull cup that Byron wrote about, adding that "it was known Lord Byron displayed several skulls, no doubt discovered in the grounds of Newstead Abbey". We'd quite like to know the truth about the cup's one true owner, but we'd also quite like to know why "several skulls" were, er, buried in his backyard? Whether or not this specific cup met the lips of the ‘She-Walks-In-Beauty’ Byron, this is one of the few times we’re willing to let a good story stand in the way of the truth.
Photography: Charterhouse Auctioneers