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Turbo Shell Cup: MAR.M.71 & A-1912

An image of Standing cup and cover

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Object information

Current Location: Gallery 12 (Adeane)


Turbo Shell Cup


Silversmith: Vianen, Ernst Jansz. van (Probably)
Silversmith: Verhaer, Albert (Perhaps)




Silver gilt; turbo shell mounted in silver-gilt, the stem and foot in the form of a putto standing on a tortoise; the fitted cover surmounted by the figure of a warrior

Silver-gilt; the rim of the turbo shell is mounted with a deep silver-gilt border, which is engraved with scrolling flowers and foliage. Beneath this is a rope border over an engraved border of tongues. The central strap is formed as a pair of entwined snakes with a lion's mask capital. The two side straps are formed as hermes. The shell is supported on a stem modelled as a putto standing on a turtle. The stepped cover has an engraved border of scrolling flowers and foliage. In the centre, on a raised gadrooned boss, stands the finial modelled as a warrior.


History note: Not known before testator

Legal notes

C.B. Marlay Bequest

Measurements and weight

Width: 11 cm
Width: 4¼ in

Place(s) associated

  • Utrecht ⪼ Netherlands

Acquisition and important dates

Method of acquisition: Bequeathed (1912-06-18) by Marlay, Charles Brinsley


17th Century, Early#
Production date: possibly AD 1628


Label text from the exhibition ‘Feast and Fast: The Art of Food in Europe, 1500–1800’, on display at The Fitzwilliam Museum from 26 November 2019 until 31 August 2020:Turbo shell standing cup and cover with a boy standing on a turtle Turbo shells come from large sea snails living in warm tropical waters, often near coral, and were in great demand by European collectors. They were individually harvested – like pearls – by divers who risked their lives in deep waters, and then sold, by merchants, to specialised shell shops in the Dutch Republic. In this virtuoso example, the polished shell has been skilfully converted into a drinking vessel by mounting it on a stem and foot, curiously formed as a naked boy standing on a turtle. It has a tightly fitting, lift-off cover to prevent poison from being introduced and unwanted matter from falling inside. The protective purpose of the cover is reinforced by the fact that it is crowned by a standing warrior. Its lack of wear suggests that it was primarily kept for display.

The mark of three lozenges is most commonly attributed to Ernst van Vianen recorded in Utrecht 1602-40 but is also associated with Albert Verhaer, recorded in Utrecht in 1590 and in Haarlem 1593-1607. Two tazze (both dated 1602) with the same maker's mark as this cup, can be found in the collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum (no. 393-1583) and the Rijksmuseum (no. BK-1960-14).

School or Style


People, subjects and objects depicted

Components of the work

Shell composed of turbo shell
Surface Of Mounts composed of gold
Mounts composed of silver
To Top Of Finial Height 20 cm Height 7⅞ in
Gross Weight 285 g Weight 9:3 oz:dwt

Inscription or legends present

Inscription present: a shield within a double circle

  • Location: On the front of the rim amongst the engraved decoration
  • Method of creation: Struck
  • Type: Town mark

Inscription present: three lozenges within a shield

  • Location: On the front of the rim amongst the engraved decoration
  • Method of creation: Struck
  • Type: Maker's mark
  • Text: L
  • Location: On the front of the rim amongst the engraved decoration
  • Method of creation: Struck
  • Type: Date letter

References and bibliographic entries

Related exhibitions

Identification numbers

Accession number: MAR.M.71 & A-1912
Primary reference Number: 160127
Stable URI

Audit data

Created: Saturday 6 August 2011 Updated: Monday 24 April 2023 Last processed: Thursday 7 December 2023

Associated departments & institutions

Owner or interested party: The Fitzwilliam Museum
Associated department: Applied Arts

Citation for print

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The Fitzwilliam Museum (2024) "Turbo Shell Cup" Web page available at: Accessed: 2024-06-21 15:15:56

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{{cite web|url= |title=Turbo Shell Cup |author=The Fitzwilliam Museum|accessdate=2024-06-21 15:15:56|publisher=The University of Cambridge}}

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