Nautilus Cup

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or South German
Flemish
Nautilus Cup, 1575/1625
Shell, gilt bronze, copper, silver, and semiprecious gems
12 1/2 × 7 1/2 × 3 3/4 in. (31.75 × 19.05 × 9.53 cm)
Purchase, with funds from Donald and Donna Baumgartner M2002.170
Photo credit: John Nienhuis
Currently on View

Produced throughout Europe, nautilus cups were an extremely desirable blend of superb craftsmanship in combination with one of nature’s most admired creations. Nautilus shells from the Pacific and Indian oceans were revered since antiquity for their iridescence, geometrical precision, and the romantic notion that they contained miraculous powers. Renaissance and Baroque goldsmiths skillfully enhanced these treasured objects with exquisite and protective mounts. This magnificent piece is framed in gilt bronze and copper ornamented with semiprecious gems. In harmony with the nautical motif, Neptune rides a jewel-eyed sea-monster on the top of the vessel. Tritonesses blowing conch shell horns flank the sides and a laboring Hercules struggles to support the entire vessel. The foot of the cup is an ornately designed turtle that appropriately symbolizes the New World.

Publication History
Sawinski, Catherine. Mythology at the Milwaukee Art Museum--Part 1. Entry posted August 17, 2012. . (accessed October 28, 2014). Sawinski, Catherine. From the Collection--Nautilus Cup. Entry posted June 12, 2012. . (accessed October 28, 2014). Andera, Margaret, Nonie Gadsden, Britt Salvesen, and Laurie Winters. Collection Guide: Milwaukee Art Museum. Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Milwaukee Art Museum, 2004, pp. 10, 67, cat. 4, color illus. p. 10. Milwaukee Art Museum News, March 2004, no page number, color illus. (detail). Milwaukee Art Museum News, November 2003, cover (detail) and interior, color illus. Winters, Laurie et al., A Renaissance Treasury: The Flagg Collection of European Decorative Arts and Sculpture. New York: Hudson Hills Press, 1999, p. 66, cat. 22, color illus. p. 67, color detail titlepage. Milwaukee Art Center, The New Milwaukee Art Center Inaugural Exhibition, 1975, p. 2.
Exhibition History
A Renaissance Treasury: The Flagg Collection of European Decorative Arts and Sculpture, Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Alabama, April 17–June 14, 1988; The Dayton Art Institute, Dayton, Ohio, August 1–November 1, 1998; Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, Massachusetts, December 11, 1998–March 14, 1999; Honolulu Academy of Arts, Honolulu, Hawaii, April 29–June 20, 1999; Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Memphis, Tennessee, July 11–September 12, 1999; Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University, Standford, California, October 12, 1999–January 2, 2000.


This information is subject to change as the result of ongoing research.