The shell is an attribute of Aphrodite who was conveyed to Paphos on a shell; of Triton who calmed the waves by blowing a conch trumpet and of the pilgrim as seen, for example in scallop shells at the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. As exotic and beautiful objects of wonder, realistic groups of shells were faithfully reproduced within Dutch still life paintings of the 17th century. Real shells featured in grottos, such as that in Florence’s Boboli Gardens and as a decorative motif appear in European interiors of the Baroque and Rococo. Exotic and fragile shells were traded from the eastern seas, carved as cameos, ground into artists’ pigment, and mounted as drinking vessels in precious silver gilt, to be admired as wonders of the natural world in princely Cabinets of Curiosities. Mother-of-pearl has long been utilised as a decorative inlay on rare works of art from India and Japan and tortoiseshell was manipulated as a veneer for fine furniture. The lecture considers the beauty of shells in all of their variety

 

Anne Haworth
Lecturer at the V&A. Guide for private tours of the State Rooms and The Queen's Gallery at Buckingham Palace. Lecturer in British Painting for American students resident in London. In Autumn 2002, catalogued collection of Chinese porcelain at Kensington Palace. From 2002 2005, a committee member of the French Porcelain Society. From 1995 2002, was resident in Shanghai, China, visited ancient kiln sites and lectured to expatriate groups. From 1981 to 1995, trained and became a senior ceramics specialist at Christie's and Bonhams head offices