Russian; Probably region of Velikiy Ustyg
Partially polished green turban snail; gilded, matted, punched, and engraved silver; niello; H. 2 1/4 in. (5.5 cm), L. 4 1/8 in. (10.5 cm), D. 2 1/2 in. (6.6 cm)
Purchase, The Lesley and Emma Sheafer Collection, Bequest of Emma A. Sheafer, by exchange, and Rogers Fund, 1995 (1995.327)
The niello, a preeminently important Russian technique of decorating silver, follows the print Naufrage by Jacques de Lajoue (16861761), published in Paris in 1736 and integrated into a pattern book. A copy was in Catherine's extensive library. The exuberant wave and shell-like rocaille formations perfectly illustrate the Central European Rococo style, referring to the turban snail's origins in the exotic Indo-Pacific Ocean. Related turban-snail cases bearing Chinese inscriptions document that they were imported into Russia from China, where they originally served as ceremonial wine cups.