South America, XIX century
Turtle shell painted and gilded
32 x 26 x 20 cm
Provenance : Private collection, Munich
« Posséder et enrichir un cabinet de curiosité équivaut ainsi à posséder le monde en raccourci » (cit. Gilles Banderier, Les cabinets de curiosités ou l’enchantement du monde)
Following the design of the shell, probably a Galapagos tortoise, the painter inserted a surprising portrait gallery of characters from all over the world, distinguished by inscriptions: there is a Maori next to an Arab; an Eskimo next to a Singhalese.
On the upper part of the shell there are six coats of arms belonging to South American states (we can easily distinguish Chile, Paraguay and Venezuela).
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.