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The front is engraved with a scene of nine men at a table set with a punch bowl, decanters, and goblets, and the words THE HELL FIRE CLUB. Engraved on the back are the words JAMES WORSDALE MASTER OF THE REVELS.

Artist/maker unknown, English

Made in England, Europe

c. 1745, with later engraving?

Lead-crystal glass with wheel-engraved decoration; drawn stem

Height: 8 3/8 inches (21.3 cm)

Curatorial Department:
European Decorative Arts and Sculpture

* Gallery 377a, European Art 1500-1850, third floor

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
The George H. Lorimer Collection, 1953

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“Hell fire” clubs were the most notorious of the clubs that proliferated in eighteenth-century England and Ireland. With drinking as a central activity, members gathered to exchange political, literary, and artistic ideas. James Worsdale, whose name appears on this glass, was appointed “Master of the Revels” in the Dublin Hell Fire Club in 1741.

Additional information:
  • PublicationGlass

    This drawn trumpet-form goblet is wheel engraved with a scene of nine men at a table set with a punch bowl, decanters, and goblets. "The Hell Fire Club" is inscribed below and "James Worsdale Master of the Revels," on the reverse side. Clubs proliferated in eighteenth-century Britain, providing a gathering place for the exchange of political, literary, and artistic ideas, as well as for the convivial life. Whatever the particular purpose, however, the common activity to all was drinking; initiation rites and ceremonies required special accouterments, among them a large bowl and goblets of the type shown here. Certain of these clubs were bent on extravagant or licentious behavior, and the more notorious were the "hell fire" clubs. The Georgian rake (short for "rakehell") was a creature of such clubs, which are well documented in memoirs and the contemporary gossip press as well as in satirical paintings and prints such as those of William Hogarth.

    The Dublin Hell Fire Club was founded in 1735 by Richard Parsons, first Earl of Rosse (c. 1690 - 1741). Its famous meeting place was a hunting lodge southwest of Dublin, and legends and superstitions engendered by the club's scandalous activities some 250 years ago are still attached to the ruins of this building. In 1741 the portrait painter James Worsdale (1692? - 1767) was appointed Deputy Master of the Revels, and one may assume that he became master later that year after the death of Lord Rosse and perhaps had this glass engraved in commemoration. There is a painting of the club by Worsdale in the National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, and one may speculate that he also provided the design for the engraver of this glass. Betty Elzea, from Guides to European Decorative Arts: Glass (1984), p. 24.

* Works in the collection are moved off view for many different reasons. Although gallery locations on the website are updated regularly, there is no guarantee that this object will be on display on the day of your visit.