Artifacts & Documents: Artifacts

Silver Mug with the Comet of 1811

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Used for beer and ale, tankards were often plain or inscribed with the owner’s coat of arms. This one, made in England, is engraved with stars, planets, and a comet, suggesting it was made for a specific client with an interest in astronomy. The comet almost certainly refers to the Great Comet of 1811, visible for several months even during daylight hours and widely regarded with awe and trepidation. The horizontal bands suggest planetary orbits. It also has the initial F and a crest not shown in this view. It has been speculated that the tankard belonged to William Frend (1757-1841), who became a member of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1832.

Rebecca Emes and Edward Barnard I (English)
5 7/8 x 5 3/8 x 3 9/16 in.
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Image © Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, MA, photo by Michael Agee