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The shell as an art symbol: the blessed fruit of the sea...

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Seashells, calmly collected on the shore to the sound of the gentle slap of the waves are the main souvenir usually brought from the sea. As we grow older, we appreciate not only the beautiful creations of Mother Nature, but also their embodiment in everyday life and art. What a beautiful fine porcelain, even if it is not Meissen ware, what marvellous subjects are in the paintings! And the shells are not a simple detail there.
The shell as an art symbol: the blessed fruit of the sea...

The Venus Scallop

Creators and public yet loved shells back in antiquity: those images were a fairly popular element in mosaic decorations. Moreover, sublime ones: a neat fluted shell has become not only a symbol of the water element, but also an attribute of female deities, first of all, Aphrodite. Mother of pearl was revered as the divine shell of the Foam-born. The Renaissance
The Renaissance is the period that began around the 14th century and ended at the late 16th century, traditionally associated primarily with the Italian region. The ideas and images of the Renaissance largely determined the aesthetic ideals of modern man, his sense of harmony, measure and beauty. Read more
artists took over the ancient tradition. On the canvases of Poussin, Tiepolo, Titian and Botticelli, the goddess of love usually stands in the middle of the sea in a large shell, but in some cases, she holds a scallop in her hand as a symbol of the feminine principle.
The shell as an art symbol: the blessed fruit of the sea...
It is not surprising that the symbolism of the shell, associated with the origin of life, passed imp

It is not surprising that the symbolism of the shell, associated with the origin of life, passed imperceptibly into the Christian art. During the early Renaissance, you can find the image of Virgin Mary with an architectural shell-shaped detail above her head (Fra Filippo Lippi. Madonna and Child). In the future, the echo of this plot filled the semicircular ceiling of the altar, conch, with a sacred meaning (Greek κόγχη — "shell").

In the iconography of the 12th century, the scallop appeared as an attribute of the Apostle James the Great (St. James, Rouen, Normandy, 1270; St. James. Unknown master from Würzburg. 1475. Dijon; Carlo Crivelli. St. James the Great, 1472, Brooklyn Museum) and other Christian saints who sailed to worship overseas shrines. This is how the image of the mollusc also became the emblem of the pilgrims.
The shell as an art symbol: the blessed fruit of the sea...
The shell as an art symbol: the blessed fruit of the sea...
The shell as an art symbol: the blessed fruit of the sea...
Shells, like fish, traditionally symbolized baptism. This explains the fact that the paintings with the baptism of Jesus often depicted John the Baptist with a shell (Raphael, El Greco); the same mollusc can also be seen on church stained-glass windows.
The shell as an art symbol: the blessed fruit of the sea...
The shell as an art symbol: the blessed fruit of the sea...
However, birth follows lust, and in the tradition of the Northern Renaissance, the bivalved shell be

However, birth follows lust, and in the tradition of the Northern Renaissance, the bivalved shell became a symbol of adultery (Hieronymus Bosch. Garden of Earthly Delights).

All is vanity of vanities

The emergence of the Vanitas still life genre (lat. vanitas means "vanity"), has made its own adjustments in the symbolism
Exquisite still-lifes and marvelous plants on canvases: flowers do not only beautify the appearance, but also open secret meanings, and convey messages to the attentive researcher. Leafing through captivating Herbarium, we're examining enigmatic garden of flower symbols.

Read more
Symbolism is an art movement that has been reflected in painting, literature and music. It emerged in the 1870s-1880s in France, later spread to Belgium, Norway, and the Russian Empire. It reached the peak of popularity at the turn of the 19th-20th centuries. Symbolism is characterized by sadness, introspection and understatement: as if an artist came to quiet despair, but he was too shy to talk about these feelings, so he painted them.



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. Such pictures were intended to remind of the transience of life, the futility of pleasures and the inevitability of death. The Vanitas gained the greatest popularity in the 16—17th centuries in Flanders and the Netherlands. Since the traditions of the genre supposed a special place and role in the plot for each object, the shells (as remains of a once living creature) carried a semantic load similar to weighty folios, human skulls, feathers and inkpots, clocks and so on… All is vanity — the depicted objects of inanimate nature reminded. For artists (Peter Claes, Jan Pauwel Gillemans), these still lifes were a warning against vanity and frailty. Vanitas were usually located in the office in order to impart gravitas to the owner.
The meaning of the mollusc depicted could change subject to the style of the still life. If a picture contained Christian symbols (bread, wine), then the opened shell meant a soul ready to leave the earthly shell in this case.

The shell as an art symbol: the blessed fruit of the sea...
The shell as an art symbol: the blessed fruit of the sea...
In the 17th century, shell collecting spread from Holland to other European countries. Merchant ships, which swam through seas and oceans, tirelessly amazed with new items with unprecedented outlines and by the end of the 17th century shells and other marine
Marine art or seascape is a kind of landscape that depicts the sea. Specific paintings or engravings of a sea theme are also called marines. The word marine (it. marina) comes from the Latin marinus — “of sea”. Read more
curiosities were already prominent trade items. Special attention was paid to the nautilus shell covered with mother-of-pearl. This sea beauty was revered as a symbol of growth and renewal, while its "house" grows throughout its life. In a spiral shell, they even saw the image of the Universe, a model of the cosmos or a "lunar spiral" — the rising and setting sun; even the "golden ratio" was calculated in its proportions.
The shell as an art symbol: the blessed fruit of the sea...
Great examples of shells attracted the attention of further artists. Henri Matisse’s shell (Seashell on Black Marble, 1940), being a product of nature, is opposed to inanimate objects (cups, coffee pot); the Queen of Art Deco, Tamara de Lempicka, rather considers it an allegory of the vulva — pink and shiny.
The shell as an art symbol: the blessed fruit of the sea...
The shell as an art symbol: the blessed fruit of the sea...
British sculptor Marc Quinn was interested in the fruits of the ocean, because they accumulated the

British sculptor Marc Quinn was interested in the fruits of the ocean, because they accumulated the past and the present. At The Archeology of Art exhibition, 2013, the sculptor presented his giant bronze-cast shells exactly repeating the original natural ones. The enormous size of the exhibits allows the viewer to examine the mollusc to the smallest detail.

“Our shells clacked on the plates...”

The taste of oysters was discovered in the Stone Age. They were dished up for Roman emperors, as well as ordinary people until the Middle Ages. Then came a period of relative calm, and Louis XIV revived the popularity of oysters once again. The seafood delicacy became famous as a natural aphrodisiac, thanks in large part to the memoirs of Giacomo Casanova. That is why a number of still lifes depicting oysters are often viewed from the erotic symbolism
Exquisite still-lifes and marvelous plants on canvases: flowers do not only beautify the appearance, but also open secret meanings, and convey messages to the attentive researcher. Leafing through captivating Herbarium, we're examining enigmatic garden of flower symbols.

Read more
Symbolism is an art movement that has been reflected in painting, literature and music. It emerged in the 1870s-1880s in France, later spread to Belgium, Norway, and the Russian Empire. It reached the peak of popularity at the turn of the 19th-20th centuries. Symbolism is characterized by sadness, introspection and understatement: as if an artist came to quiet despair, but he was too shy to talk about these feelings, so he painted them.



Read more
point, as signs of brief and dubious carnal pleasures.
The plots of the paintings sometimes unequivocally indicate what is happening: a treat with oysters or empty shells scattered on the floor in a brothel. The Dutch painter Jan Steen called his canvas very eloquently: Easy Come, Easy Go the Artist Eating Oysters in an Interior. (1660).
The shell as an art symbol: the blessed fruit of the sea...
The shell as an art symbol: the blessed fruit of the sea...

The gallant era of porcelain heroes

In the first half of the 18th century, in addition to the goddess of love, the seashell also gave rise to a French art style, Rococo (from the French rocaille — decorative shell); the main motive that gave the name to the style was used everywhere: furniture design, wall decoration, small accessories. This was the heyday of the Meissen porcelain manufactory, whose products most accurately reflected the spirit of the era of whitewash, blush and beauty spots. Everyone wanted to have a porcelain face and a scarlet blush, even when they ascended the scaffold.
In painting, the Rococo style first manifested itself in the work of Antoine Watteau, who loved to depict gallant celebrations, and François Boucher. Artists preferred to paint pastorals, naked nymphs.
The shell as an art symbol: the blessed fruit of the sea...
The shell as an art symbol: the blessed fruit of the sea...
The life on the Rococo canvases is playful and carefree, because the spirit of the goddess Aphrodite, born from the shell, reigned and hovered over it.