Shell Shock: Conchological Curiosities by Patrick Mauries
Some of the wittiest and most artful decorative creations of all have been crafted from nature's miniature masterpiece: the shell. Its myriad forms and colours display a beauty and an intricacy that defy the mind and hand of man. Now Patrick Mauries takes us through the history of man's delight in and decorative use of the shell. From ancient times, the shell has been the focus of fantasy and fascination, playing a significant role in myth and religion. Gradually, as the age of exploration brought ever more exotic examples to European shores, it became an object of curiosity and ornament. Cabinets of rarities gave pride of place to conchological collections; fine books were filled with exquisite engravings of every type of mollusc; grottoes and architectural interiors encrusted with products of the sea became the rage; and finally the shell motif was carried into every branch of decoration and design. From Rococo and Rocaille, through Victorian kitsch to 20th-century refinement, in paintings and porcelain, furniture and fashion, the shell is everywhere. Contemporary artists have "rediscovered" the shell, exploiting its elegance, its variety, its patterns and its polish, to delight and surprise in sometimes unexpected ways.