Art/ Collection/ Art Object


19th century
Kerala State, India
Shell (Turbinella pyrum), brass, wax
Height: 8 7/8 in. (22.5 cm) Width: 16 3/4 in. (42.5 cm)
Aerophone-Lip Vibrated-trumpet / trombone
Credit Line:
Purchase, The Barrington Foundation Inc. Gift, 1986
Accession Number:
Not on view
In Hinduism the conch shell is usually associated with the god Vishnu, Lord of the Waters, but the brass fittings on this shell indicate a link with Shaivite ritual. The mouthpiece suggests a lotus, while the heavily decorated conical end depicts rows of nagas (serpent divinities) and wreath-bearing kirtimukhas ("Faces of Glory"). A yoni design (symbol of female energy) is interspersed between each naga and kirtimukha. The fitting terminates with the head of a makara (elephant/crocodile monster), atop which strides a yali (elephant/lion monster). Three figures rest at the upper edge of the shell's opening: the lingam/yoni, symbol of Shiva and representation of the unified male/female force; Ganesh, the elephant-headed son of Shiva; and Nandi, a milk-white bull who serves as Shiva's vehicle. The opening of the hoofed stand represents a yoni.
Jayson Kerr Dobney, Bradley Strauchen-Scherer. Musical Instruments: Highlights of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. First Printing. @2015 by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. New York, 2015, p. 159, ill.

Written by, Written by Ms. Jackie Menzies, Written by Pratapaditya Pal. Dancing To The Flute: Music and Dance in Indian Art. The Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia. Sydney, Australia, 1997, pg. 176-177, fig. 110, ill.

J. Kenneth Moore. "Recent Acquisitions 1985-1986: A Selection: Musical Instruments." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin (1986), pg. 45, ill.

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