Dragon Shell

Step 1 of 6

Nautilus Cups

Related images

Cups made of nautilus shells such as this one have become symbols of Renaissance collecting. Many historians have written about them, as such cups represent the inventiveness and creativity of early modern goldsmiths, who set shells from Asia in artfully crafted mounts for display in elite collectors’ cabinets of curiosity.[Zuroski 2017] Furthermore, they symbolize material exchange across cultures and the meeting of Europe and Asia.[Kehoe 2013] Asian shells were transported aboard the same ships as Chinese porcelain and Chinese ceramics, which were also often set in mounts (Fig. 1). Alongside shells and porcelain from Asia, European goldsmiths also transformed other imported goods, for example coconuts and ostrich eggs from Africa, into elaborate vessels used for drinking and display.(Fig. 2 and 3)

On festive dinner tables, these cups would serve alongside drinking automatons that moved from one guest to the other ‘serving’ alcoholic drinks.(Fig. 4)