Dragon Shell

Dragon Shell

Start a story

Standing Cup, 1550, mounts late 15th-early 16th century made in Padua (?) or Germany (?), shell carved in China.

This cup is arguably the best researched example of a nautilus shell carved in Ming dynasty China. Information and publications on the artifact have been collected by the British Museum which has made its research accessible online.

Object views


  • Shell, mounts and the invisibles

    story by Anna Grasskamp

    This story is part of the Ocean Objects series, supported and funded by Research Grants Council Hong Kong (GRF 12603017). This story is about a shell that travelled all the way from Asia to Renaissance Europe. In China, its surfaces were decorated with intricate patterns of dragons, birds and flowers. In Europe, it was reframed by a goldsmith, who turned it into one of many ‘nautilus cups’ by placing it on a bird’s foot made of gilded silver. It is all beautifully done, but not everything is visible…

    Start this story