After Hercules' death at the hands of the treacherous Nessus, he was borne aloft to Olympus where he was deified and took his place among the other Olympian gods. The scene here depicts his presentation to Jupiter, preceded by his wife Hebe, the goddess of youth and herself the daughter of Jupiter and Juno. Hercules is motioned forward by Mercury, and the couple are led to Jupiter's throne by Cupid. The two cooing doves on the ground represent the wedded couple. Around the rest of the cup is a procession of the other gods present at the celebrations.
The cup is closely related both stylistically and on compositional grounds to a cup by Bernhard Strauss in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna (see comparative photo). That cup depicts virtually the identical scene but with very minor variations, such as Hebe's right hand which is held to her side on the present cup but which is held in front of her in the Vienna cup. The leaf decoration on the underside of both cups is identical, and the stem which has putti alternating with grotesque masks, and the foot adorned by reclining male figures are common to both. The Vienna cup also retains its lid with finial and an extra decorative border at the bottom edge of the foot. The present cup must also have had such a border as the screw threads where it would have attached are evident on the underside.
Little is known about Bernhard Strauss, except that he was known to have lived and been active in Augsburg in the middle of the 17th century. A silver-mounted ivory tankard in the Victoria and Albert Museum (see Philipovich, op. cit., fig, 146) is signed and dated by Strauss, and provides the added information that he was also a goldsmith. This is reflected in the rather auricular nature of the grotesque masks on this and the Vienna cup, which is surely imitating an artform first used in repousse metalwork.
The present cup therefore appears to be a a variant version of the Vienna cup, possibly commissioned as a result of the success of the latter, or even executed speculatively with a view to finding a purchaser. The superb quality of the carving evident here is a testimony to the tradition of German carvers throughout the centuries, but in particular the artists of Augsburg in the 17th century.