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Ancient Roman cup depicting gay sex reimagined for Pride

Patrick Kelleher July 4, 2019
Ancient Roman cup depicting gay sex reimagined for Pride

Pride Cups by Hal Messel (Courtesy of Steve Russell Studios)

An ancient Roman cup which features two of the earliest surviving artistic depictions of gay sex has been reimagined in rainbow colours for Pride.

The Warren Cup is an ancient silver drinking cup and depicts two male same-sex acts. The British Museum purchased the famous artefact in 1999 for £1.8 million. It is thought to have been created in the 1st century AD.

Silversmith Hal Messel has teamed up with the British Museum and LGBT+ charity Stonewall to recreate eight different versions of the cup, each in a different colour of the original Pride flag.

Pride Cups will be exhibited in London before being sold

The Gloucestershire-based artist was inspired by the “challengingly explicit” Roman homoerotic artwork when it was bought by the British Museum in 1999.

Messel used a unique colouring method that took him a year to perfect in order to create the solid silver cups in the rainbow flag colours.

The series of artworks was launched today (July 4) at the British Museum. They will be publicly exhibited at Christie’s and the Brown Hart Gardens in Mayfair, before being sold to collectors across the world.

“Depictions of sex were widely found and in fact celebrated in Roman art but for hundreds of years, same-sex relationships have been all-but erased from history, as so few artefacts have survived – or have been overlooked, ignored or hidden away for fear of public outcry,” Messel said.

We’re extremely excited to be part of this ambitious project and grateful for the support of such an esteemed artist.

He hopes the Pride Cups will lead to increased awareness that gender identity and sexual orientation “remain on the fringes of so much contemporary art.”

Stonewall says there is still work to be done to advance LGBT+ rights

Stonewall chief executive Ruth Hunt said that significant progress has been made in LGBT+ rights, but added that many still exist in the shadows.

“This project has helped spark an important conversation about how attitudes have changed and also how much work there is still left to do,” she said.

“We’re extremely excited to be part of this ambitious project and grateful for the support of such an esteemed artist.”

When the Pride Cups are sold, a percentage of the profit will go to the British Museum to help expand their LGBT+ programmes.

The museum is also set to launch its first on-site tour of LGBT+ objects in the collection tomorrow (July 5).

More: art, british museum, LGBT, Pride, pride cups, the warren cup

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