Thursday, November 14, 2013

Unusual Artifacts: The Paul Aettinger Nautilus Cup, 1590

Silver Gilt Cup Mimicking Ornamental Nautilus Cups
Paul Aettinger, 1590
The Victoria & Albert Museum

During the second half of the Sixteenth and at the dawn of the Seventeenth Century, ornamental stemmed cups made of Nautilus Shells were popular, luxurious novelties for display in the homes of wealthy gentlemen. The bowls of the cups were made from the shells of sea snails, the Nautilus pompilius—an exotic and rare material which was often fashionably set in silver. Such cups were adorned with a marine motif, typically with figures of sea monsters, mermaids and, often with a finial shaped like Neptune. 

This silver gilt ornamental standing cup, made in Regensburg, Germany and dating to about 1590, is made in the shape of a nautilus shell to mimic those featuring the real thing. The cup’s figural stem takes the form of a female. As was typical, the whole is surmounted by a figure of Neptune with trident and chain. Famed German silversmith Paul Aettinger created this beautiful work of art. 

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