- Museum number
Silver and parcel-gilt container of a flattened egg-shape, in two halves each made up of a hammered silver hemisphere with an outer hemisphere of pierced silver foliate openwork and hatched leaves. The layers are joined at each apex with a rivet which forms the centre of an engraved and gilt rosette. One half has a gilt 'collar' round the rim into which the other half fits. Image on right.
- Production date
Diameter: 5.30 centimetres
Length: 5.50 centimetres
- Curator's comments
- Information supplementary to Hull Grundy Catalogue (see text below):
These pierced containers (see also HG Cat. 408-410), made in gold and silver, are now generally described as Gujerat or Goa, late 17th or early 18th century. See example with closely similar decoration sold Sotheby's London, 4 December 2012, lot 128, and another similar example in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Inv.1980.228.1. 2a,b). The same Museum also holds a gold example with more elaborate decoration (2004.244a-d). Both have stands. See also Bonham's London, 20 April 2016, lot 137.
Text from catalogue of the Hull Grundy Gift (Gere et al 1984) no 407:
Containers of this sort were made to contain 'Goa stones'. These were more or less spherical concoctions of 'Bezoar, Ambergreece, Pearl, Unicorn's Horn, Coral and such other of the greatest Cordial preservatives, Corroboraters and Renewers of strength and youth' (Archer 1684, pp.47-8), which were devised by Gaspar Antonio, a Florentine lay-brother of the Jesuit monastery in Goa, the Portuguese colony on the west coast of India. Goa stones were imported into England in the last quarter of the seventeenth century and in the eighteenth century, and were believed to have a wide range of medicinal powers, comparable to those of bezoar stones (natural concretions from the bodies of certain animals). Goa stones were highly valued: Archer noted in 1684 (p.53) that 'the smallest sort of Balls are at ten shillings price, some at a Guinny, the largest of the bigness of a Turkey egg five pound a piece'; see Hutton 1980 (pp.710-11, 724).
A number of these cases, in gold, silver-gilt, and silver, survive in London. None of them are hallmarked. The largest group is in the Wellcome Museum of Medicine, now part of the Science Museum. A paticularly fine gold example (with its Goa stone) in the Department of Oriental Antiquities of the British Museum (1912, 11-14, 1; see Fig 24), could have been acquired in India not later than 1775. It seems possible that Goa stones were sometimes imported from India aboard East India Company ships in Indian-made cases of this sort. However, the pierced work can be compared with pieces thought to have been made by English craftsmen (for example, the cases of a number of watches; a table alarum-clock in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, ref.M 123, which is London work of c. 1670, see Fig.23; and the box in the present collection, 411) and it is likely that some of the surviving cases for Goa stones were made in England.
Goa stones were quite common in eighteenth-century collections in England. The 1727 Inventory of the property of the recently deceased Earl Cowper (Hertfordshire Record Office, Cowper papers), for example, includes 'a Goar stone weighing 5 ounces 16 pennyweight in a silver case', valued at £2 17s 0d, as well as a piece of Bezoar in a silver case. Horace Walpole was given a Goa stone from the estate of Thomas Gray (Correspondence of Horace Walpole, Letter to Cole, 1772; see Lewis 1937, p.275), and the Description of Strawberry Hill (Walpole 1784, p.68) includes 'a large Goa stone' and 'a silver box almost in the shape of an egg, engraved', which may have been a case of this type; compare Sotheby's sale catalogue, Works of Art and Maiolica (12 December 1974, lot 156).
- Not on display
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Miscellaneous number: HG.751 (masterlist number)