Art For The Table – The Nautilus Shell

Nautilus shell, mounted on chiselled silver ba...

Nautilus shell, mounted on chiselled silver base. Germany, 16th century. Now in the Applied Arts Collections Museum in the Sforza Castle in Milan, Italy. Picture by Giovanni Dall’Orto, january 6 2007. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Imagine sitting down to eat with a huge nautilus shell to be used as your drinking cup! The nautilus shell has been used in such works of art for centuries. These artifacts, mainly in the form of table ware, are a unique part of art history which is preserved in museums and private collections now.

The marine shell’s large size and unique shape, with the curl extending to a large opening seemed perfect to use as a cup, or bowl to hold salt, spices or other items.  The shells were imported, and artists of the 17th century saw plenty of ways to expand on the natural beauty of the chambered nautilus by incorporating it into ornate silver and gold statue designs.

The shells could be carved or painted, and drawings of anything could adorn the shell.    They used it as the hull of model ships and as the rear legs of horses.  Sometimes a mermaid would be holding the “ship”, or it was hoisted in the air by giant fish.  And a whole different look could be achieved by combining two nautilus shells together in a piece.

Often painters included these nautilus shell works of art within their own masterpieces of still life.  One such work is available for sale at Red Bubble.  And to discover more about the amazing animal who creates this shell, please read my previous post about the Living Chambered Nautilus.

To see many images of the nautilus shell used in the ways I’ve described here, visit this Live Journal art links page.

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About Pam Carter

Artist, mother, Zazzler, writer, blogger, photographer.
This entry was posted in Seashells and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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