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.

Date:

17th century

Artist:

German

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

Arms, Armor, Medieval, and Renaissance, Gallery 238

Title

Spice Box Shaped as a Skull

Origin

Germany

Date

1600–1699

Medium

Silver gilt

Dimensions

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

1992.505

Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email .

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