redundant chalice

I am going to talk about a silver chalice set designed by the
architect Ramsay Traquair, and was made by a silversmith from Edinburgh, JM
Talbot. The piece was created in 1906 using a p?ua shell, silver and moonstone.
In this essay, I am going to talk about mythological stories in art, what the
myths are based around and how they can be portrayed in art. I decided to pick
this object as it tells a mythological story about Cupid and Psyche on its 6
enamel plaqes, I liked how each one told a different part of the story. I liked
the style of the chalice, Art Nouveau (1890 and 1910) and also the detail on
the enamel plaques, paua shell and butterfly drops. The shell makes is a lot
different to any other chalice I have seen before the bright colours off the
shell in particular attracted me.


This chalice is one of 5 from a set that was made, but this
one I found most interesting. Phoebe was influenced by the Pre-Raphaelites, she
painted murals for numerous religious organizations in Edinburgh, such as the
Catholic Apostolic Church in Broughton Street. The style of the chalice is Art
Nouveau which was an art movement that was highly popular from 1890 to roughly
1910. Artists working in the style Art Nouveau took the forms as they saw in
nature and then flattened and abstracted them, it is characterised by the
flowing organic shapes that were based from nature, whiplash lines, stylised
flowers, roots, leaves and also the female form (inspired by the Pre-Raphaelites).
Most artworks from this time period will revolve around the female form and will
most likely be included in all artworks taking the style of Art Nouveau. The
movement was more focused on the different lines than the colour, this is clear
as most of the colour pallets used in this time were all muted greens, browns,
yellows and blues. The materials used to make the chalice are silver, paua
shell and moonstone. The paua shell is the thing that attracted me most to this
chalice. Paua are marine monovalve molluscs and theory coastal areas that are
rocky and they can be anywhere from 70-140mm to a maximum of about 200mm. The
shell is iridescent meaning the colours in the shell change when the shell is
moved at different angles, this means the shell is highly sought after for
jewellery. What makes it so special is that every shell is different, each one
has different colours and patterns from each other. There are black patterns on
the shell which comes from the layers of protein that are laid between layers
of calcium that primarily make up the shell. The vivid colours come from light being
refracted within the layers of the crystals. There are 6 enamel plaques in
total and on each one they depict scenes from the story of Cupid and Psyche. The
function of the chalice seems to be more decorative than practical just looking
at the chalice I wouldn’t want to pick it up, it looks quite fragile like the
stem wouldn’t be able to hold the shell if it were picked up, I looks too nice
to be handled all the time. Also, the 6 enamel plagues are in the middle of the
stem makes it impractical to lift, also the small butterfly’s dangling down
would make it difficult to drink from.


A chalice is fundamentally just a goblet or cup that is meant
to hold drink, it can be made of any material but in ancient times they were
mainly made of shells and horns but in later times silver became the favoured
material. A chalice is used to hold blessed water and or wine during rituals. “A
chalice is a large gold or silver cup with a stem. Chalices are used to hold
wine in the Christian service of Holy Communion” Over time, the size of the
bowl reduced and the base became larger for improved stability. Usually a
chalice has a thick stem and a wide bottom so that it is easy to lift and drink
from, so that its more practical. Many religions have different uses for a
chalice for example; they were used by the early Christian church during their
rituals, primarily to obtain the symbolic Blood of Christ during Mass.

People begun to express stories through art as a way of
communication to people that are unable to read. It was uncommon for children
of the general public to attend school. Lots of religious paintings told
stories from the bible so that it would help people to understand the
characters in the stories (the bible) when they were at church. There are several
ways in which stories and myths can be expressed through art, the story of
Cupid and Psyche series tells their story through a series of 5 tapestries. Different
myths can be portrayed in various ways, sculpture and painting are the most
popular ways of doing this. Different mythologies have different stories behind
them. Classical mythology is a term that shows that the myths belong to Greek
and Roman myths. These myths are have been believed to have been first heard
orally, the Greek word  “mythos” means
spoken word or speech and also donates a tale narrative or story. Greek
mythology is widely based around gods, heroes and rituals of ancient Greeks but
all these myths are not every really verifiable and usually the origin of the
story is unknown but yet are claimed to be a truth.

This painting is called “The Creation of the          This painting is called “The reunion of Cupid                                                                                           Galaxy”
It is held at the National Gallery,             and psyche”
it was painted by Jean Pierre                                                                                             London,
England and painted by Giacopo            Saint-Ours in 1809. It tells the myth of Cupid                                                                                     Tintorreto,
1580. The story is that “Zeus              and Psyche after a lone time of
trying to find                                                                                         
puts baby Hercules to breastfeed from Hera,      each other.                                                                                          
but spilled milk creates the galaxy.”

The story of Cupid and Psyche supposedly goes that a king had
three daughters and only one of them was beautiful – Psyche – and people came
from all over to see if it was true, men started worshiping her as if she were
a goddess and begin to ignore Venus who was the goddess of love and beauty. She
didn’t like this so she orders her son cupid to punish her by making Psyche
fall in love with an ugly man. Cupid sneaks into her bedroom and upon seeing
her he gets distracted by her beauty he pricks himself with his own arrow,
instantly he falls in love with her. As her life goes on she sisters marry and
does not, this worry’s her parents so they take her to ask the oracle of Apollo about their daughter’s future. He tells
them that she is destined to marry a monster, so she was left on a mountain (as
instructed) to await this monster. As she expects something bad to happen, the
wind (Zephyr, the west wind) blows her to a field where she finds a castle
which is full of treasure and priceless artworks. That night her husband to be
comes but its dark so she can’t see what he looks like, he comes only in the
darkness of the night as she never wants to see what he looks like. Psyche
convinces her invisible husband to let her two sisters come and visit. The
sisters get very jealous, they want to know who her husband is so she lies but
eventually tells them the truth that he only comes at night. They remind her
she was to marry a monster and make her look at him while he’s asleep and to
carry a knife in case he really is a monster to see what he really looks like,
she does this only to find out that its Cupid, she is surprised at how handsome
he is and is so distracted that she lets oil drop from the lamp she is holding
and burs him. He is furious to see her with a knife so he flies away and tells
her that she will never see him again, the castle disappears and she is alone,
she is so alone that she goes and tells her sisters what happened, they think
that they can take her husband for themselves so go and jump off the mountain
Zephyr doesn’t take them down and they fall to their death. Psyche wants to
find cupid and ends up going to a temple of Ceres, She askes for help but when
Venus she shows her anger for what she done to Cupid and she must do a task
before she can become his wife