Exceptional and rare office inkwell



Germany, circa 1800

Dimensions: Height: 15,5 cm (6764in.) ; Width: 10,5 cm (4964in.)

Provenance: Private Collection

Since the Antiquity, the marine world and its curiosities fascinate mankind; but this is only by the end of the Middle Age, at the moment of the naval trades with China and Indies, that shells spread out in Europe. Most of them are attired with delicate settings and are reserved for cabinet of curiosities. These collections of naturalias appear during the 16th century, mainly in Netherlands, centre of the naval trade with oriental and occidental Indies; and later start to spread in France, England and Italy.

At the same time, mounted shells become very popular in royal and princely German courts; and are made in great goldsmithery centres such as Leipzig, Olmütz, Augsbourg and Nuremberg. At the 17th and 18th centuries, this practice extends to Berlin, Strasbourg and Dresde, where works the famous master Johann-Melchior Dinglinger (1664-1731).

The goldsmiths’ let their imagination work on to create fanciful, whimsical and inventive creations, of an eccentricity that is very typical if the mannerist culture. Proof of it is seen in this « Turbo mounted in gilded silver of which the lid is sit on top of a monster that evokes a snail (…), plentiful setting of marine monsters, winged geniuses, fruits and foliage ».

Just like the office ink wood we present that distinguishes itself by its exotism and the originality of its creation, the ink reservoir and the hourglass in gilded bronze are encrusted in a conical polished and pearly shell. The delicately chiselled lid of the hourglass is ornamented with a floral setting, while the lid of the ink reservoir is decorated with small carvings. As about the dip pen, it is completed with a pick of porcupine.

The overall stands on a circular base in gilded and chiselled bronze, decorated with seaweed foliage and held by three dolphins.