Dragon Shell

Step 6 of 6

Bird’s foot

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The most striking element is, however, the bird’s foot that supports the cup. In early modern Europe, shells were associated with eggshells, as both animal products were equally light, translucent and sturdy. The British Museum cup is therefore not the only one that combines a nautilus shell with the features of a bird.(Fig. x-y)

Even before they were mounted by European goldsmiths, polished and carved nautilus shells were labeled “parrot cups” in China, as their shape was perceived to resemble that of the rare bird.[Hsieh 2013]