Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.

Cup and case

Cup and case

  • Place of origin:

    Netherlands (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1620 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Nautilus shell, silver-gilt and enamel

  • Museum number:

    M.179:1, 2-1978

  • Gallery location:

    Europe 1600-1815, Room 6, The Lisa and Bernard Selz Gallery, case CA12 []

Numerous mounted nautilus shells survive today, but this is a rare example of a shell that probably survives in its original mounts, as the insects enamelled on the gold mounts match the insects engraved on the pearly underlayer of the shell. The piece is also of interest for the study of natural history, as the engraved insects are among the earliest attempts to depict moths, flies and beetles accurately. This mounted shell, which exemplifies the combination of natural beauty and skilful artistry that appealed to seventeenth-century collectors, can be traced to the aristocratic collections of the Mniszech and Potocki families of Poland.

Physical description

Nautilus shell with enamelled gold mounts and foot. The pins which secure the mount hinges, and which secure the mounts to the shell at the centre of the phragmocone (chambered part of the shell) are later. There is a large area of repair on the outer shell wall over the area of the phragmocone.
The mounted shell has a tooled leather case which is contemporary.

Place of Origin

Netherlands (made)

Date

ca. 1620 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Nautilus shell, silver-gilt and enamel

Marks and inscriptions

Rubbed coat of arms on the case may belong to the Mniszech family their arm are: gules, seven ostrich feathers sable.

Dimensions

Height: 20.5 cm Base of foot to highest point of the mounted shell, Width: 17 cm Across widest point of the shell, Depth: 7 cm From front to back of shell at widest point (approx), Diameter: 8 cm Across underside of foot

Object history note

The whole is an example of technical virtuosity combined with the interest in the phenomenon of the natural world typical of the Wunderkammer. It is possible that it is Dutch, since similar but not identical techniques and engravings on mother of pearl were executed in Amsterdam by Jean Bellekin (or Belequin, or Bellequin), (1597-1636) and his son, Cornelis, in the second half of the 17th century. Count Potocki suggests that it was originally owned by Frances Bernard Mniszech. who died in 1661 and then in the 18th C. it came into the ownership of the Mniszech family who had the case made for the nautilus shell.

Descriptive line

Nautilus shell, with enamelled gold mounts, made in Netherlands, ca. 1620.

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

Somers Cocks, Anna. Nature, the Only Teacher: A Nautilus Cup from a Noble Polish Collection. The V&A Album, 1983, vol. 2. pp. 160-64.
Mette, Hans-Ulrich. Der Nautiluspokal: Wie Kunst und Natur miteinander spielen. Munich and Berlin: Klinkhardt & Biermann, 1995. ISBN 3781403289
Möller, Karin Annette. Schimmern aus der Tiefe. Muscheln, Perlen, Nautilus. Catalogue of the exhibition at the Staatliches Museum Schwerin, 14 June - 15 September 2013. Schwerin: Michael Imhof Verlag, 2013. ISBN 9783865689115
Kjellberg, Pierre. Objets montés du Moyen Âge à nos jours. Paris: Amateur, 2000. ISBN 2859173056
van Seters, W. H. Oud-Nederlandse parelmoerkunst: het werk van leden der familie Belquin, parelmoergraveurs en schilders in de 17de eeuw. Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek, vol. 9, 1958. pp. 173-237.
Mauriès, Patrick. Cabinets of Curiosities. London: Thames and Hudson, 2002. ISBN 0500510911
Pijzel-Dommisse, Jet. Catalogue entry. In: Asia in Amsterdam. The culture of luxury in the Golden Age. ed. by Karina H. Corrigan, Jan van Campen, and Femke Diercks, with Janet C. Blyberg. Catalogue of the exhibition 'Asia in Amsterdam: The Culture of Luxury in the Golden Age' at the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, 17 October 2015 - 17 January 2016 and Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts, 27 February - 5 June 2016. Salem, MA: Peabody Essex Museum; Amsterdam: in conjunction with the Rijksmuseum, 2015. ISBN: 9789491714559

Labels and date

Nautilus shell
1621-40
This shell is poised between a wonder of nature and an artwork. Nautilus shells fished from the Indian Ocean were prized by European collectors as exotic treasures. This one is carved and polished to highlight its natural beauty and set in a precious mount. It is engraved with European spiders and insects, which are accurately depicted and reflect the developing scientific interest in invertebrates.
Dutch Republic, now the Netherlands (possibly Amsterdam)
The shell possibly engraved by Johannes Belkien, known as Jean Bellequin
Nautilus Pompilius L. shell etched and engraved; enamelled gold mount
Museum no. M.179-1978 [2015]
This cup and cover together is an example of technical virtuosity combined with the interest in the phenomenon of the natural world typical of the Wunderkammer. It is possible that it is Dutch, since similar but not identical techniques and engravings on mother of pearl were executed in Amsterdam by Jean Bellekin (1597-1636) and his son, Cornelis, in the second half of the 17th century. Count Potocki suggests that it was originally owned by Frances Bernard Mniszech, who died in 1661 and then in the 18th century it came into the ownership of the Mniszech family who had the case made for the nautilus shell.
[Silver Gallery Label] [1992-2000]

Categories

Metalwork

Collection

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.