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A highly unusual painted and gilt Tortoise Carapace with Depictions of a World Voyage

Late 18th/early 19th century, probably painted by a sailor or captain

L. 32 x W. 26 x H. 20 cm

Private collection, Munich

Following the natural forms of the carapace, the painter inserted a surprising portrait gallery of characters from all over the world, possibly voyagers and world-discoverers from different nations such as Maori, Sinhalese, Chinese, Europeans and many more.

On the upper part of the shell, there are six coats of arms belonging to South-American states. Furthermore, the shell is decorated with small depictions of scenes and landscapes and geometric patterns in polychrome and gold.
An approximate map of the globe sits on the final, slightly rounded part of the shell.
In the Wunderkammer, the criteria which governed the selection of objects, rarity and strangeness, also served to blur the boundaries and create a primary synthesis between the three kingdoms, between ‘naturalia’ and ‘artificialia’, a synthesis of which this meticulously decorated shell is a formidable example.

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