probably English (London)
about 1590
Marked by Unmarked

Object Place: Europe, Probably London, England


H. 13.7 cm (5 3/8 in.); W. 12.4 cm (4 7/8 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Mother-of-pearl with silver mounts

On View

Alyce Morrissey Gallery (Kunstkammer) (Gallery 143)





The cylindrical body of the casket is composed of vertical strips of mother-of-pearl pegged into a broad silver collar with a dentiled border. The collar is engraved with scrolls of foliage enclosing exotic birds. The silver foot has a flaring rim with stamped eggand-dart ornament. The three feet are formed by cast figures of seated lions. The domed cover is made of strips of mother-of-pearl secured with a silver wire rim, rising to a boss with a bun-shaped finial. It is attached to the body by an exterior hinge that is pierced with a pattern of arabesques. A hinged clasp with a hook and eye secures the cover at the front. The strips of shell are pegged to the silver frame with brass rivets. The broad center section of silver is formed from a strip seamed near the hinge. The feet, hinge, and upper section of the finial are cast. The surface of the silver collar shows considerable flaking and corrosion.

Mother-of-pearl comes from the inside layer of certain tropical shells and was prized for its lustrous, iridescent surface. Craftsman in Gujarat, India, specialized in cutting and assembling plaques to create functional vessels that were eagerly collected and displayed by Europeans as luxurious curiosities from the other side of the world.


Dukes of Norfolk, Arundel Castle (unverified); purchased from How (of Edinburgh), London, by the MFA for £650. (Accession date: September 18, 1963)

Credit Line

Theodora Wilbour Fund in memory of Charlotte Beebe Wilbour