A rare enamelled 'Beggar's Benison' opaque-twist wine glass circa 1770
Lot 67
A rare enamelled 'Beggar's Benison' opaque-twist wine glass circa 1770
Sold for £9,000 (US$ 15,127) inc. premium
Lot Details
A rare enamelled 'Beggar's Benison' opaque-twist wine glass
circa 1770
The ogee bowl painted with a phallus and pouch between the castle and anchor crest of Edinburgh, the reverse inscribed The Beggars Benison, set on a double-series stem and conical foot, 13.3cm high (foot bruised and chipped)


  • Provenance:
    The Visscher Collection, Sotheby's, 18 December 2001, lot 76.

    David Stevenson, The Beggar's Benison: sex clubs of the Scottish Enlightenment and their rituals (2001), illustrated on the cover.
    Simon Cottle, unpublished mss, 2009, no.11(3).

    Two further examples have survived of which one can be found in the Durrington Collection, illustrated by Roger Dodsworth (ed), catalogue (2006), p.42, fig.36 and p.61, and another in the collection of St. Andrews University. It has been suggested that the painting may be the work of Anthony Taylor, a decorator of glass in enamels from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, contemporary with the Beilby Workshop (see Simon Cottle, 'The Other Beilbys: British enamelled glass of the 18th century, Apollo, October 1986, pp.319-320 and fig.9).

    Founded in 1739, 'The Beggar's Benison' has been described as 'a Scottish society of an erotic and convivial nature, composed of the nobility and gentry of Anstruther and adjacent districts in the Kingdom of Fife and Caledonia'. Although it is generally accepted that the castle and anchor emblems on the Beggars Benison glasses represent the City of Edinburgh, David Stevenson, op.cit. pp.249-250, believes that the anchor may also be interpreted as a reference to the town of Anstruther, while Peter Lole has suggested that the castle motif could also be interpreted as a reference to the Castle of Dreel in Anstruther, where the society held its earliest meetings. According to Lole, this would explain why the castle emblem continued in use in Beggars Benison memorabilia long after the Edinburgh chapter had become defunct. The club became large and sprawling, establishing branches in Edinburgh, Glasgow and St. Petersburg. As a toast 'The Beggar's Benison' was drunk at aristocratic dinners in London in a coded reference to sex.