Moon Chalice depicts the theme of ancient ritual that is characteristic of Stamos's work of the 1940s, when he and his contemporaries were endeavoring to "create the myth of their own time" through their art.
Moon Chalice alludes in a general sense to the mystery of myth and ritual. It depicts a goblet, reminiscent of those used in sacrificial rites; but within it, not wine, but a yellow crescent. Usually portrayed as a large, powerful element, this strange depiction of the moon hovering over suggestions of a landscape suggests that Stamos placed the world within a vessel, suggesting the metaphysical aura that encompasses the material world. The gray cup hovers within a ground of soft blue, black, bright green, and yellow. Thin, black lines illustrating natural and cosmic forces meander and streak throughout the composition. Such lines of energy reflect not only an awareness of surrealist motifs, but also the influence of Dove's lines of force in his late works.
The matte paint in Moon Chalice evokes the roughness of ancient stone, suggesting primitive civilization. The texture is heightened by the many brush fibers that are imbedded in the oil paint. Screen-like imprints, sprayed-on paint, and incisions on the paint surface intensify the sense of irregularity.
These paintings, as well as World Tablet, 1948, were the first works by Stamos that Phillips purchased from Betty Parsons in 1949. Phillips recognized Stamos's spiritual and stylistic ties to Dove, and he immediately exhibited them together. In Stamos, he detected the legacy of Dove expressed in an individual, freshly modern manner.