Coral branch

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Second half 17th century
Coral, lignum vitae
28 cm
15 cm

P. Mauries, Cabinets of Curiosities, Londen 2002, pp. 88 - 94.

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A Trapani coral branch, mounted in a base of lignum vitae, with several branches. The coral comes from Trapani, a port city in the north-west of Sicily, known for exporting exceptional coral. Corals were collectors' items in the 17th century and were included in art rooms and collections. In sixteenth and seventeenth-century Europe, collectors (wealthy citizens and royalty) filled their cabinets of curiosities with collections of naturalia, artificialia, exotica and scientifica, driven and inspired by objects from new worlds, scientific and geographic discoveries, and a renewed interest in antiquity.

The coral, made up of the exoskeletons of small polyps, takes on irregular shapes, resembling plant growth. The unusual growth of corals fascinated collectors; coral has characteristics of the mineral world as well as the plant and animal world. In addition, coral lent itself well to incorporation in objects, in which naturalia and artificialia came together. The material was set in precious material such as gold or silver, or carved into a figure.

In addition to the external characteristics of coral, medicinal properties were also attributed to the material. Coral rings, bracelets and necklaces protected the wearer against illness and injuries. 


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