Curious Objects: “The Most Awesome Cup of All Time” . . . and 500 Other Objects

Benjamin Miller Curious Objects

Dealer Adam Ambros and curator Ed Town join Ben to talk about a collection of mostly small objects made in Britain between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries, many of them marked with a date, the subject of a new book from the Yale Center for British Art called Marking Time: Objects, People, and Their Lives, 1500–1800. During the discussion, Town and Ambros tease out the material history and forgotten figures behind six of the most quotidian of these objects—two Elizabethian shoehorns and a powderhorn by little-known craftsman Robert Mindum, and three beakers by Nathaniel Spilman—and reveal that for the emerging middle class these were not merely useful objects, but status symbols.

Horn, wood, and silver cups made by Nathaniel Spilman (1755–1836), 1788, 1791, and c. 1791, respectively. Bryan Collection; Stukenberg photograph.
Shoe horns and powder horn with silver mounts, made by Robert Mindum (fl. 1593; d. 1615?), 1596, 1597, 1598, 1612, respectively. Bryan Collection, Lake Bluff, IL; photograph by Jamie Stukenberg.
Marking Time: Objects, People, and Their Lives, 1500–1800 (Yale Center for British Art, 2020).

Ed Town.

Edward Town is head of collections information and access at the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, Connecticut. He was a co-author and contributor to Painting in Britain 1500–1630, and has published numerous articles on artistic production in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, including “A Biographical Dictionary of London Painters 1547–1625”; “A Fête at Bermondsey—an English landscape by Marcus Gheeraerts the Elder”; and, with Jessica David, “George Gower: Painter, Mercer, Serjeant-Painter.”

Adam Ambros is a private dealer of fine antique English and continental furniture and objects in New York City. Establishing his businesss in 2018, Ambros has distinguished himself with sales of rare items to important private and public collections domestically and internationally. Working with a wide network of scholars and professionals in the field of antiques, he also provides advisory services for acquisitions, appraisals, conservation, and research of furniture, objects, and historic interiors.

Adam Ambros.