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Spice Box Shaped as a Skull

A work made of silver gilt.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • A work made of silver gilt.


17th century



About this artwork

A fitting accessory for an eerie end, this tiny macabre pendant—under an inch tall and wide—is also a rather surprisingly complicated spice box. The miniature spring-loaded button on the top opens the skull to reveal two sections, the back one divided into four compartments, and a panel engraved with the names of four aromatics: Negal (cloves), Muscha (nutmeg), Canel (cinnamon) and Schlag (schlagwasser, a mixture of brandy, primrose petals, and violets, thought to be a cardiac stimulant). The openings for the eye sockets, nasal passages, and missing teeth are not just anatomically correct; these perforations would have allowed the fragrances of the secreted spices to waft out and work their medicinal magic.


On View, Gallery 238


Applied Arts of Europe


Spice Box Shaped as a Skull


Germany (Object made in)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.



Silver gilt


3.2 × 2.2 × 2.7 cm (1 7/8 × 1 1/16 × 1 1/4 in.)

Credit Line

Gift of Marilynn B. Alsdorf

Reference Number


IIIF Manifest  The International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) represents a set of open standards that enables rich access to digital media from libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural institutions around the world.

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Extended information about this artwork

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