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
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.
Sawinski, Catherine. Mythology at the Milwaukee Art Museum--Part 1. Entry posted August 17, 2012.
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.