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Seventeenth-century artists and collectors regarded the nautilus as one of Nature's masterpieces and as a result nautilus shells were often given elaborate and precious mounts. These mounts often transformed the shell into a decorative cup, which showcased both the pearly beauty of the nautilus and the skill of the goldsmith's art. The shells were imported from Indonesia (Ambon Island) by Dutch traders from 1609 onwards, and therefore Dutch goldsmiths became particularly associated with this type of work in the seventeenth century. This cup was probably intended for display rather than for use, and may have been kept with other elaborately-mounted natural specimens in a special room reserved for the purpose. The kneeling figure carrying a trident, the rim, and the three mounts attached to the rim are all much later replacements.
Nautilus shell mounted in silver gilt, Dutch (Utrecht), 1613, Nicolaas van der Kemp, with nineteenth-century additions.
Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)
Tait, Hugh. Catalogue of the Waddesdon Bequest in the British Museum, III: The 'Curiosities'. 3 vols. London: British Museum Press, 1986-1991. ISBN (vol. III): 0714105252.