Art/ Collection/ Art Object
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Bezoar Stone with Case and Stand

Object Name:
Bezoar stone with case and stand
Date:
17th century
Geography:
Attributed to India
Medium:
Container: silver; pierced, chased, and mercury-gilded Goa stone: compound of organic and inorganic materials; mercury-gilded
Dimensions:
Altogether: .1, .2a,b, .3: H. 2 1/16 in. (5.2 cm) Diam. 1 3/4 in. (4.4 cm) Wt. 2.4 oz. (68 g) Goa Stone: .1: H. 1 3/8 in. (3.5 cm) Diam. 1 1/4 in. (3.2 cm) Wt. 1 oz. (28.4 g) Case: .2a,b, together: H. 1 7/16 in. (3.7 cm) Diam. 1 7/16 in. (3.7 cm) Wt. 1 oz. (28.4 g) Stand: .3: H. 1 in. (2.5 cm) Diam. 1 3/4 in. (4.4 cm) Wt. 0.4 oz. (11.3 g)
Classification:
Metal
Credit Line:
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Gordon S. Haight, 1980
Accession Number:
1980.228.1, .2a, b, .3
Not on view

MMA (2004.244a-d/ 1980.228.1, .2a, b, .3)


Goa stones are talismanic objects named for the location where they are believed to have been manufactured by Jesuits in the late seventeenth century. Like bezoar stones (natural gallstones of ruminants), Goa stones were known for their medicinal and prophylactic powers, though they were manmade. The stone usually consists of a paste of bezoar, clay silt, crushed shell, amber, musk, resin, narwhal tusk (believed to be unicorn horn), and crushed precious and semiprecious stones, all pressed into a ball and then gilt. Scrapings from the ball were ingested as an antidote to poison and melancholy, as well as to prevent illness. A pharmaceutical treaty published in Goa in 1563 by physician Garcia da Orta, Colóquio dos simples, e drogas e coisas medicinais da Índia (Conversations on the Simples and Drugs and Medical Things of India) devotes several pages to the use and history of bezoar stones.

The ornate gilt containers for these stones were believed to enrich the medicinal effects of the stone. In a letter of 1580, Filippo Sassetti, a Florentine merchant, wrote that Goa stones were customarily mounted in gold to enhance their powers.[1] The Portuguese exported these objects to Europe, and the elaborate containers reflect the sophisticated filigree styles popular in Portugal (cats. 184–85).[2] Goa stone holders are recorded in European treasuries and Kunstkammers from the early seventeenth century.[3] The gold example contains European animals within an ogival trellis resting on a bed of floral arabesques. The smaller silver Goa case has a more typical allover scrolling pattern.


Courtney Stewart in (Haidar and Sardar 2015)


Footnotes:


1- See Nuno Vassallo e Silva in Exotica: The Portuguese Discoveries and the, Renaissance Kunstkammer. Exh. cat. edited by Helmut Trnek and Nuno Vassallo e Silva. Museu Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon; 2001–2, Lisbon: Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, 2001, p. 152, no. 48.

2- See also Impey, Oliver, The Cecil Family Collects Four Centuries of Decorative Arts from Burghley House. Exh. cat. Cincinnati Art 1998, p. 118, no. 33.

3- Silva in Exotica: The Portuguese Discoveries and the, Renaissance Kunstkammer. Exh. cat. edited by Helmut Trnek and Nuno Vassallo e Silva. Museu Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon; 2001–2, Lisbon: Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, 2001, p. 151, no. 47.
Mr. and Mrs. Gordon S. Haight, Woodbridge, CT (until 1980; gifted to MMA)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Fifty Years of Collecting Islamic Art," September 23, 2013–January 26, 2014, no catalogue.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Sultans of Deccan India, 1500-1700: Opulence and Fantasy," April 20, 2015–July 26, 2015, no. 190.

Haidar, Navina, and Marika Sardar. "Opulence and Fantasy." In Sultans of Deccan India 1500–1700. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2015. no. 190, pp. 316-317, ill. pl. 190 (color).



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