Posset Pot and Cover

Artist/maker unknown, English

Made in London, England, Europe

Late 17th - early 18th century

Lead-crystal glass

10 x 9 1/4 x 7 1/4 inches (25.4 x 23.5 x 18.4 cm)

Curatorial Department:
European Decorative Arts and Sculpture

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Gift of Mrs. Hampton L. Carson in the name of Anna Robeson Barr, 1925

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This vessel was used for posset, a popular drink in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Posset was made of hot milk curdled with ale or wine and flavored with sugar and spices.

Additional information:
  • PublicationGlass

    This type of spouted vessel, preserved in both seventeenth-century glass and ceramic form, has been traditionally known as a "posset pot." Posset, a concoction of hot milk curdled with ale or wine and flavored with sugar and spices, was a popular beverage in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Aside from the spout, the form follows that of English silver cups of the 1650s and 1660s, with their scrolling "ear" handles, low-bellied body, gadrooned decorations, and ring-formed finial.

    The glass itself is lead crystal, then recently perfected. After the standard book on glassmaking, L'Arte Vetraria (1612) by the Italian Antonio Neri, was translated into English in 1662, the Company (or guild) of London Glass Sellers commissioned George Ravenscroft (1618 - 1681) to find an improved formula to supersede Venetian glass, which was imported and over which they had little control. Thus came the invention of English "glass-of-lead" (sometimes known as "flint glass") about 1674-77. To the basic ingredients, silica (usually sand) and a potash flux, Ravenscroft added a small proportion of lead oxide, which increased the fusibility of the material. This produced a dense, brilliant glass, slower to inflate and form than the light, more easily wrought Venetian glass, but closer to the appearance of rock crystal. Using this new substance, English glassmakers continued to work in the fashionable Venetian style, but the greater density of the lead formula gave their products a more robust appearance, well exemplified by this fine posset pot. Betty Elzea, from Guides to European Decorative Arts: Glass (1984), p. 18.