Zoomorphic cups were produced from the 16th century in large European silversmithing centres, mainly in Germany. They are in fact hanaps or drinking cups, the body containing the liquid, the detachable head serving as cover or goblet. They were mainly used at guild and corporation dinners or offered by cities or guilds to their guests of honour.
Several cups modelled as bears have survived including a suberb example from the collection of Princess Salimah Aga Khan by Hans auf der Burg, Nuremberg, circa 1600 (Christie's Geneva, 19 May 1998, lot 179), Vincent Laloux and Philippe Cruysmans, Le Bestiaire des Orfvres, Lausanne, 1994, p. 172 record an extremely similar bear to the present example without an applied shield but holding a bunch of fruit, which is marked by Diebolt Krug, Strasbourg circa 1570-1580 and was in the collection of Louise de Vilmorin. It is certainly possible that the present unmarked cup is also by Krug.