This covered cup was most likely made in Augsburg in the early 1670s. Mounted in silver-gilt decorated with precious and semi-precious stones, the base, cup and cover are made from a narwhal tooth, which has been carved in low relief with fighting fish and sea monsters. The stem, carved in ivory, represents an American Indian couple. Narwhal teeth were important elements in European Art and Curiosity Cabinets (Kunst- und-Wunderkammern)—until the seventeenth century they were thought to be the horn of the mythical unicorn. More commonly displayed in their natural state, on rare occasions narwhal teeth were used to create works of art.
This covered and mounted cup makes a remarkable addition to our already rich collection of seventeenth-century Wunderkammer objects.
Augsburg, Germany, c. 1670–74
Mounts by Hieronymus Priester (master 1649–d. 1697)
Ivory, narwhal, silver-gilt, precious and semiprecious stones
Gift in memory of Mae Cadwell Rovensky by exchange, The Anna Rosalie Mansfield Gift by exchange, Gift of Miss Mary C. Barton by exchange, The European Decorative Arts Purchase Fund, and the Douglas Tracy Smith and Dorothy Potter Smith Fund, 2012.4.1a,b