Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.


  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

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.

Descriptive line

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.




Metalwork Collection

Large image request

Please confirm you are using these images within the following terms and conditions, by acknowledging each of the following key points:

Please let us know how you intend to use the images you will be downloading.