Mate Cup

Spanish Colonial

Object Place: Chile or Cuyo, Argentina


17.9 x 12.1 x 3.6 cm (7 1/16 x 4 3/4 x 1 7/16 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


On View

William J. Fitzgerald Gallery (Gallery 135)


Americas, Europe


Silver hollowware

The spherical vessel is raised in two halves and overlapped horizontally at the center. The overlapping half is engraved with a band of vertical decoration at the edge and soldered to the lower portion. The rim of the bowl is flanked by two cast rhinoceri. Four wires spring from the base of the baluster stem and extend upward toward the sides of the bowl; at their tips are alternating cast birds and flowers. A raised salver, with a beaded edge and a raised center, supports the flowers and bowl. Cast floral tripod feet support the salver.

Mate cups such as this example are especially notable for the flora and fauna that balance on delicate wires and playfully sway with the slightest motion.1 The footed salver that supports the whole is an element borrowed from the sahumador, or brazier, form that was designed to catch stray embers. The salver, however, is not a functional element in the mate cup, for the bombilla never rests on the tray; it typically remains within the bowl, which has a small opening that keeps it firmly in place as the cup is passed from one drinker to the next.
Rhinoceri are not native to South America, and their presence at the rim of the vessel is a fanciful expression that was probably prompted by prints or other images available by the early nineteenth century.

This text has been adapted from “Silver of the Americas, 1600-2000,” edited by Jeannine Falino and Gerald W.R. Ward, published in 2008 by the MFA. Complete references can be found in that publication.






Collected in Buenos Aires, Argentina, by Mr. and Mrs. Edmund P. Graves between 1898 and 1913.

Credit Line

Gift of Miss Ellen Graves, Mrs. Samuel Cabot and Mrs. Roger Ernst in memory of their father and mother, Mr. and Mrs. Edmund P. Graves