67 Items in this Learning Collection
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Coconut Cup

Accession Number

Coconut Cup


Object Creation Date
2nd half of 16th century

Medium & Support
coconut shell with gilded silver

11 15/16 in. x 3 9/16 in. x 3 9/16 in. ( 30.3 cm x 9 cm x 9 cm )

Credit Line
The Paul Leroy Grigaut Memorial Collection

Label copy
March 28, 2009
The shell of an exotic fruit, a coconut, forms the cup of this elaborate vessel that once belonged to an affluent German household. On the shallow, domed lid, a sea nymph frolics with a serpent, and the metalwork teems with plants, fish, deer, a horse, and fantastic creatures. These images of bountiful nature visualize the abundance represented by the coconut. Aphrodisiac powers were attributed to coconuts, and the fruit also conjured dreams of a natural paradise in which nourishing food grew without human toil. But the coconut also attested to the abundant wealth of its owner, who commanded the capital to purchase this opulent object crafted froma fruit shipped from overseas.

Subject matter
This richly decorated cup combines precious metalwork with the shell of an exotic fruit, a coconut, to create a marvelous artwork that would have manifested the status of its owner. The embossed and engraved decoration of the metalwork teems with vegetal motifs, fish, deer, a horse, and fantastic creatures suggestive of the bounty of nature.

Physical Description
This cup is fashioned from a coconut shell set in a shallow bowl supported on a long, narrow stem and held in place by three straps and a tall neck band. The shallow domed lid has a plain, overhanging rim and terminates in a finial with a statuette of a nude sea nymph and serpent. The metalwork is densely decorated with various masks, animals, fantastic creatures, and vegetal ornament.

Primary Object Classification
Decorative Arts

Primary Object Type

Additional Object Classification(s)

Collection Area

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coconut cups
cups (drinking vessels)
drinking vessels
eagles (birds)
horses (equipment)
scrolling foliage

1 Related Resource

Early Modern European Objects
(Part of 2 Learning Collections)

& Author Notes

Web Use Permitted

On display

UMMA Gallery Location ➜ AMH, 1st floor ➜ 102 (Richard and Rosann Noel Gallery)