(b. ca. 1507, Wien, d. 1585, Nürnberg)

Nautilus Cup in the Form of a Chicken

Nautilus, silver, parcel gilt, painted, cast from nature, height 18 cm
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

The shell of the Nautilus pompilius was among the exotic natural objects being imported as jewellery to Europe via Portugal in the sixteenth century. Since the Renaissance, the shell of this cephalopod was frequently decorated with goldwork in order to emphasize its uncommon value. With its large chamber opening and evenly shaped edge, the nautilus lends itself very well to the creation of drinking vessels and goblets.

The present cup was made in the Nuremberg workshop of Wenzel Jamnitzer. A finely wrought lower portion serves as the base of the drinking vessel. Here four lizards crawl through delicately rendered grasses and bushes which were created as natural casts.