German, Nuremberg

Not on view

The coveted qualities of both natural wonder (naturalia) and fine craftsmanship (artificialia) are embodied in this hollow vessel. In the 1500s, rock crystal was priced at its weight in gold. The material’s extreme hardness allows it to be worked—cut, carved, or drilled—without shattering, while at its finest, as here, it is luminous and transparent. Through artistry, a pricey mass of heavy pure quartz has here been transformed into a seemingly weightless bird, complete with beady eyes of ruby and a collar and legs of gilded silver.

Bird, Rock crystal, with gilded silver and rubies, German, Nuremberg

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