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  • Place of origin:

    England (possibly, made)
    Flanders (possibly, made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1585 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Silver-gilt and polished shell

  • Credit Line:

    The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Collection on loan to the Victoria and Albert Museum, London

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Gold, Silver and Mosaics, Room 70, The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Galleries, case 6

The stem and mounts of this cup with its marine figures, juxtaposition of disparate elements and complete use of all available decorative space is Mannerist in style. Originally developed by Italian painters in Florence and at Fontainebleau during the 1530s, the Mannerist style soon spread to northern Europe.

The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Schatzkammer is one of the few collections of its kind formed in the late 20th century. The Schatzkammer, or treasury, was a new concept in the 16th century. It referred to a special chamber in which the most precious artefacts of a princely collection were housed. Gold and jewelled objects were mounted alongside exotic natural curiosities, including rock crystal, nautilus shells and ostrich eggs. Together they demonstrated not only the wonders of nature and the technical achievements of the artist, but also the intellect and culture of the patron.

Sir Arthur Gilbert and his wife Rosalinde formed one of the world's great decorative art collections, including silver, mosaics, enamelled portrait miniatures and gold boxes. Arthur Gilbert donated his extraordinary collection to Britain in 1996.

Physical description

A turban shell cup with silver-gilt mounts; the stem fashioned as a man riding a sea monster upon a waisted plinth. The foot of the cup is in the form of a tortoise surmounting four naturalistic feet. The exterior rim is chased with circular patterns and, above, plain tongues enclose a piece of polished turban shell, which is carved to resemble the shell of a tortoise. Four braided straps cross the shell connecting the perimeter of the tortoise to the central stem section. The cup is formed from the turban shell which has four straps; the three in front in the form of figures, masks and volutes all terminating in lion masks. The rear vertebrally decorated terminates in foliate decoration. The applied silver-gilt rim undulates in order to accommodate the natural shape of the shell and give an even surface at top, is flat-chased with scroll-and-foliate decoration.

Place of Origin

England (possibly, made)
Flanders (possibly, made)


ca. 1585 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Silver-gilt and polished shell


Height: 25.7 cm, Width: 17.5 cm, Depth: 13 cm, Weight: 1300 g

Descriptive line

Silver-gilt and polished shell, England or Flanders, ca.1585.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Hayward, J.F. Virtuoso goldsmiths and the triumph of Mannerism, 1540-1620. London: Sotheby Parke Bernet Publications; New York: Rizzoli International Publications, 1976, pl. 661.
Schroder, Timothy. The Gilbert collection of gold and silver: recent acquisitions. Los Angeles (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) 1988, cat. no. A..

Labels and date

(Gallery 70, case 6)
3. Turban shell cup
About 1585
Turban sea snails are found in waters off Australia and the East Indies. Their shells were exported to centres across Europe where local goldsmiths would create bespoke mounts. The transformed shells, encased in silver and gold, were highly prized in treasuries throughout mainland Europe.
England or Flanders
Turban shell and gilded silver
Museum no. Loan:Gilbert.58-2008 [16/11/2016]

Production Note

England or Flanders


Silver-gilt; Shell


Gilding; Polishing; Mounting


Drinking; Metalwork


Metalwork Collection

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