What do centuries-old drinking traditions have to do with horse races? At first glance, not much. But at Winterthur we have a long tradition of collecting beverage ware, and as anyone who’s ever attended Point-to-Point knows, we do love a good steeplechase.
As it happens, the Point-to-Point traditions have roots dating back to the 1700s. While we have only been running the event since 1979, two of the Point-to-Point trophies take their direct inspiration from historic objects in our collection.
The Vicmead Plate Trophy has been awarded annually since the first Winterthur Point-to-Point in 1979. The trophy honors the founding of the local Vicmead Hunt Club in 1920, but its shape dates back to a Boston two-handled cup. Made by Boston silversmith Thomas Milner between 1710 and 1745, the cup is inscribed with initials that likely represent three different owners of the cup. The Vicmead Plate Trophy copies the Milner cup in the shape of the handles as well as in the curve of the body. The trophy was made in 1978 or ’79 by William DeMatteo.
Also made by William DeMatteo, the Isabella du Pont Sharp Memorial Trophy is another Point-to-Point race award. This trophy, however, was inspired by an even older vessel in Winterthur’s collection: a two-handled cup made by Jeremiah Dummer in Boston sometime around 1690. Made of silver and inscribed with the words “Benjamin Coffin / to / RG [or RC],” the cup provided inspiration for the Sharp Memorial trophy in the handles and the fluted portion of the body.
After being presented to the winners of the races at this weekend’s Point-to-Point, the trophies will be treated by conservators. Then, they—along with their historic inspirations—will be on view in the entryway to the Winterthur Galleries from June 7, 2012 through January 6, 2013 as an accompaniment to the exhibition Uncorked! Wine, Objects & Tradition.
In that exhibition, be sure to see the beautifully crafted Delaware Steeplechase and Race Association Trophy in silver dating back to the 1830s. You can also get a glance at the 1830s trophy and learn more about it at the Uncorked! online exhibition.