Porcelain covered cup and saucer from the Meissen Porcelain Factory, c. 1815, Germany. Photo courtesy The Drexel Collection.
Drinking, whether it be for sustenance, pleasure, or ritual, is an essential human action. We don’t often put much thought into what or why we drink, or what we drink out of, but we ought to!
Drinking vessels come in many different varieties; some are big, some are small, and some have handles. Ceramic vessels are formed and fired, metal vessels are formed in fire, and glass vessels are melted and blown. Some drinking vessels symbolize wealth, some contain elixirs that promote health, and some are used in social and cultural rituals.
From a luxurious Louis Philippe Cup and Saucer to a 12th century BCE bronze Gu beaker, the sheer scope of the Rincliffe Gallery’s latest student-curated exhibition, Holding Your Drink: 3000 Years of Drinking Vessels From the Drexel and Salzberg Collections, offers a rare chance to familiarize oneself with the many varieties and materials of the vessels used for drinking, as well as their functions, what beverages they contain and why they were created in the first place. The show was curated by 11 graduate students in the “Exhibitions & Programming” course within the Museum Leadership program in the Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design.
In one “room” in the Rincliffe Gallery’s hallway, luxurious drinking vessels representative of class and wealth demonstrate the extravagance of different cultures. In another room, drinking vessels are displayed and characterized based on their associated beverages: beans (either coffee or chocolate), leaves (tea), grains (beer/spirits), and grapes (wine). In a third room the cultural and social aspects of ritual drinking vessels are highlighted.
Holding Your Drink: 3,000 Years of Drinking Vessels From the Drexel and Salzberg Collections is on display in the Rincliffe Gallery on the third floor of the Drexel Main Building at 3141 Chestnut Street from Dec. 8 through March 16, with an opening reception on Dec. 8 at 5:30 p.m. It is open and free to the public from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.
By Brett Peters, a graduate student in the Museum Leadership program in the Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design.