I FIRST ENCOUNTERED the Warren Cup in 2006 at the British Museum. It is a 1st-century CE Græco-Roman silver goblet with homoerotic images. A college friend had seen it previously at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, but knew that the British Museum had acquired it. He was eager to have me see its explicit depiction of male-on-male sex acts. We found the six-inch-high cup prominently displayed in the Wolfson Gallery on the third level.
It is remarkable to see homosexuality represented in a major public museum, and prominently displayed rather than hidden in a “Secretum,” as the British Museum did with all such materials until 1953. Furthermore, this is an object of extraordinary beauty and craftsmanship. The images are in relief, hammered out from the inside rather than formed in a mold— a technique known as repoussé. I was duly impressed, but I had no idea of my family connection to this ancient artifact.
The Warren Cup was named for its original modern-day owner, Edward “Ned” Perry Warren. I recently discovered that I was related to him. Ned was the third son of Samuel Dennis Warren, the Gilded Age paper baron who founded S. D. Warren Company in 1871. This Westbrook, Maine, paper mill was once the largest in the world. S. D. Warren was my fourth great uncle, and both my great-great-grandfather and my great-grand-father had managed the mill. My father was working at the mill when I was born.
Although Ned was a first cousin, four times removed, growing up I never learned about him or any of his siblings. I think this was intentional. Our side of the family managed the mill; S. D.’s heirs profited from it. Ned had lived openly with his male lover. He sued his brother Samuel over management of the family trust. This lawsuit was thought to be a primary reason that Samuel shot and killed himself. These stories didn’t fit the family narrative that my father and his siblings wanted to pass down to us.
David Gauld is an architect based in New York City. He is Ned Warren’s first cousin four times removed.