A priceless treasure could be leaving West Norfolk for the first time in 150 years to take pride of place in a new exhibition.
The King John Cup could be one of the top 10 East Anglian Masterpieces on show in the Sainsbury’s Centre for Visual Arts in Norwich – if councillors agree.
Curators at the art gallery, which is based on the University of East Anglia campus, have approached West Norfolk Council for permission to borrow the cup for an exhibition later this year.
The silver gilt and enamel cup was last exhibited, outside of Lynn, in France and London between 1857 and 1862.
It is hoped that the cup’s appearance in the Masterpieces: Art and East Anglia show will help raise the profile of Lynn’s heritage to tourists.
Arts and culture portfolio holder Elizabeth Nockolds said: “We are extremely proud of Lynn’s rich history and the Sainsbury Centre’s approach is testament to the quality of the material we are fortunate enough to have here.
“The exhibition sounds interesting and it will be a great way to share the King John Cup with a wider audience, who we hope might want to come and explore the other treasures we have here in Lynn.”
Mystery surrounds the origins and name of the cup, which is thought to be the only surviving medieval secular cup
It dates back to 1340, which is more than 100 years after King John died in Newark in 1216. Experts do not know where it was created but it is thought to have been owned at one time by the Trinity Guild in Lynn.
The earliest record of it dates back to 1548 when it was listed as one of the items delivered to the mayor William Overend.
The cup, which is 38.8cm high and holds a pint, is decorated with 21 enamelled panels depicting elegantly dressed people hawking and hunting. A woman and a hawk are engraved inside the cup.
It was used by the earliest mayors at official and private functions. There is a myth that one mayor took the cup to a blacksmith to be soldered at the base as it jiggled while he was at a private function.
In 1885, a full size replica was given by the people of Lynn to Prince Albert Victor, who was the eldest son of Edward VII. He died at the age of 28 after contracting influenza and was succeeded by his brother, later George V. This still occasionally graces the dining table of Sandringham.
If the cabinet agrees, the cup will be appearing in the exhibition runs from September 14, 2013, to February 24, 2014.
The cup, which will be among 250 items celebrating Norfolk and Suffolk’s artistic heritage, will have a central place within the exhibition and will be shown in a specially designed case.
Director of the Sainsbury’s centre, Prof Paul Greenhalgh said: “We believe Masterpieces: Art and East Anglia to be the most ambitious exhibition ever staged in our region. The King John Cup is a true masterpiece and we would be thrilled to include it as a highlight of the exhibition.”