Spanish Colonial Silver Mate Cup & Stand
height: 19.5cm, weight: 283g
This elegant mate cup and stand is of solid silver. The stand comprises a saucer with a rounded rim engraved with flowers and leaves. It stands on three, short zoomorphic feet. The stem includes a large, gadrooned sphere. Four engraved stems rise from the base of the cup and these wrap over the cup. Two are styled as leaves and the other two as flowers or stylised pomegranates but with further bird motifs. The mate cup itself is engraved with a leafy frieze and rises to an everted lip to which two solid-cast poodle dog motifs are attached.
The underside of the stand is engraved finely with the initials ‘A.F’. It is not unusual to see the marks of the owner on Spanish colonial silverware from South America. One reason for this is that as households with extended family members changed and formed, individuals wanted to be clear as to who owned what for the sake of inheritance.
Yerba mate is an important beverage that is indigenous to South America. Like tea or coffee, it contains a mild stimulant. A variety of utensils are used in its preparation and consumption. Wealthier households commissioned silver mate utensils.
Yerba or hierba is a species of holly that is native to subtropical South America: northern Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, southern Brazil and Bolivia. The
leaves are used to make the herbal tea drunk from cups such as this. The leaves are steeped in hot water rather than boiled and sometimes sugar is added.
The term ‘hierba’ is Spanish for grass or herb. ‘Yerba’ is a variant spelling more common in Argentina, Uruguay and Mexico. ‘Mate’ is from the Quechua
language and means ‘cup’. So yerba mate literally is a ‘herb cup’.
The style of the mate cup suggests an 18th-19th century dating and a Bolivian provenance.
It is in excellent condition.
Luis Ribera, A., & H.H. Schenone, Plateria Sudamericana de los Siglos XVII-XX, Hirmer Verlag Muchen, 1981.
European private collection
Inventory no.: 1680