Fuddling Cups at The Philadelphia Show

I’ve received advance promotional materials for The Philadelphia Show, which celebrates its 60th Anniversary when the show opens April 29th and runs through May 1st. The show features antique dealers in addition to fine art galleries, and there’s some fascinating objects that will go on display.

As I’m looking through the pictures, this object caught my attention, as one can see that the handles of these ceramic cups are intertwined. I learned something new – this is called an “English Delftware Fuddling Cup,” and it will be presented at the fair by Vandekar Antiques, which is located in Downingtown, PA, and run by Paul Vandekar and his wife Deidre Healy. However, it’s interesting to note that this family business was originally “Earle D. Vandekar of Knightsbridge,” and opened more than 100 years ago in Amsterdam. In 1916, the family moved the gallery to London, and in 1982, Earle’s son, Paul, opened in New York, followed by the move to the current location in 2019. Learn more about the history of the family business here.

Back to the object before us – these are two different views of the same English Delftware Fuddling Cup, which was made circa 1660 – 1680. One might wonder why the handles are intertwined, and I was amused to learn that a “fuddling cup” is a novelty item meant as a challenge where the drinker must empty the three intertwined cups without spilling any liquid. It’s been suggested that one must drink from the cups in a specific order to avoid spilling, which basically makes it a puzzle that is meant to be entertaining at the dinner table.

English Delftware Fuddling Cup from Vandekar Antiques
Two views of an English Delftware Fuddling Cup from Vandekar Antiques.

Since this type of object is not something I was previously familiar with, I also wanted to understand what is meant by “English Delftware.” It refers to tin-glazed pottery – most of it using primarily blue and white colors – made in the British Isles generally between about 1550 and the late 18th century. The “delftware” aspect refers to the city of Delft in the Netherlands was an original major center of production, but the term covers ceramics made with other colors, and made in other locations.

Check out this page to get information on tickets for The Philadelphia Show, as well as show hours and other relevant details for visitors.

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