(358) RMA RP-P-1967-955


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A cartouche with a text of Terentius, encircled by six (sea) shells. Two land snails are visible in the left and right upper corner. After a design by Jacob Floris [the Elder] (1524–1581), a Flemish painter and draughtsman. Printed and issued in Antwerp in 1556. This copy is in the collection of the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam [2].

The snails are stylised, with four tentacles but lacking their tails. One is dextral, the other sinistral, for obvious symmetrical reasons.



[1] https://rkd.nl/explore/artists/28387.%5B2%5D RMA, inv. RP-P-1967-955. http://hdl.handle.net/10934/RM0001.COLLECT.417640.



(357) Round up (iv): RKD


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Today I will use various images available in the Explore database of the Netherlands Institute for Art History (RKD). These images are of paintings which are in unknown (private) collections or in museums that do not display their art works in good resolution images on their website. Therefore a selection of the many works that otherwise would not be included. The emphasis is on works from the 17th century.

The first image is a painting by Frans Francken (II) dated 1618/1619 which shows an interior with paintings, shells, coins and a vase with flowers [1]; now in Antwerp, collection Rubenshuis. There is, however, a good colour image available [2], which also allowed to see a detail of a land shell shown. It is a sinistral specimen of Amphidromus.



A similar shell, although seen in a different position, may be seen on this still life by Balthasar van der Ast and dated 1625 [3].


The next painting is a work by Ambrosius Bosschaert (I), now in the collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. It is dated 1619–1621 [4].


The yellow shell on the right is painted in such position that makes identification difficult; possibly a Nanina species (?). Both this shell and the previous species are of south-east Asian origin.
The same shell shows up again in a painting dated 1626 and made by his son Ambrosius Bosschaert (II)[5].


Also Balthasar van der Ast had used (likely) the same shell in a still life ca. 1622 [6]. As these three artists were connected by family ties, this should not be a surprise.


This artist had, a few years later, also a shell of African origin in his possession. On the painting dated ca. 1630, now in the Centraal Museum in Utrecht [7], a species from the family Achatinidae is seen.


While these were examples of tropical shells in still lifes, one of the earliest paintings where a domestic snail is present may be this work attributed to Balthasar van der Ast and dated 1620–1629 [8]. It should be noted, however, that there is something strange with this snail as it seems to be a mirror image (sinistral). Perhaps it was not painted after a living example but from memory?


During the next decades European species, especially Cepaea, regularly can be spotted on works from different artists. We have seen already several examples earlier, but here is another forest floor still life where a garden snail (not occurring in forests) is seen. This work is by Otto Marseus van Schrieck and dated 1666 [9].


While Marseus van Schrieck was one of the artists who put quite frequently snails in his paintings, others rarely did. Some examples from less well-known artists with Cepaea to conclude.

Jean Baptist van Fornenburgh made this still life during the 1630s [10].


This still life is dated ca. 1637 and was attributed to Philips de Marlier [11]; the snail is a multi-banded morph of Cepaea.


This painting by Giliis Gillisz. de Bergh is dated 1600–1669 and was last seen on an auction in 1992 [12]. It was likely made in the 1630s or later.


Dated 1650–1655, this painting was made by Laurens Craen [13].


Pieter de Ring painted this still life ca. 1660 [14]; it has one Cepaea snail tucked away in the right-hand foreground.


Signed by [Martinus] Nellius, this painting is undated. The artist was active 1669–1719 [15]; the snail is a multi-banded morph.


This painting is attributed to Hendrick Schoock and dated ca. 1680 [16]. Now in the Centraal Museum, Utrecht.


During the 18th century and beyond, the still life gradually disappears and with it the snail. Some late examples are this painting dated 1796 and attributed to Johann Amandus Wink [17]…


…and this one made in 1812 by Jacobus Linthorst [18].


It illustrates the rise and decline of the snail in paintings, as well as the shift from ‘tropical secrets’ to ‘domestic commodities’.

[1] https://rkd.nl/explore/images/20826.
[2] http://bit.ly/1GhWdlR.
[3] https://rkd.nl/explore/images/104907.
[4] https://rkd.nl/explore/images/67514.
[5] https://rkd.nl/explore/images/25637.
[6] https://rkd.nl/explore/images/119858.
[7] https://rkd.nl/explore/images/6232.
[8] https://rkd.nl/explore/images/120166.
[9] https://rkd.nl/explore/images/114833.
[10] https://rkd.nl/explore/images/51245; https://rkd.nl/explore/artists/28654.
[11] https://rkd.nl/explore/images/198446; https://rkd.nl/explore/artists/52742.
[12] https://rkd.nl/explore/images/6612; https://rkd.nl/explore/artists/7159.
[13] https://rkd.nl/explore/images/105723; https://rkd.nl/explore/artists/18936.
[14] https://rkd.nl/explore/images/61146; https://rkd.nl/explore/artists/67085.
[15] https://rkd.nl/explore/images/113617; https://rkd.nl/explore/artists/59115.
[16] https://rkd.nl/explore/images/7672; https://rkd.nl/explore/artists/70979.
[17] https://rkd.nl/explore/images/214665; https://rkd.nl/explore/artists/84943.
[18] https://rkd.nl/explore/images/232054; https://rkd.nl/explore/artists/50287.

(356) BLL Yates Thompson 27


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Yolande of Flanders (1326–1395) married in 1353 to Philippe of Navarre and received as present for here marriage a Book of Hours, which is now in the British Library, London [1]. This manuscript, which probably originated in Paris between 1353 and 1363, contains a snail in the marginalia on folio 31r.


The scene is another variation on the ‘knight v. snail’ theme. Here the knight seems to be not hostile but to adore the snail, which is dextral, with four tentacles, its foot folded, but lacking its tail.

[1] BLL, inv. Ms. Yates Thompson 27, 138 ff. http://bit.ly/1sbGhih.

(355) PMM M.198


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A Book of Hours, originating from Amiens, France, ca. 1480, is now in the collection of the Pierpont Morgan Museum [1].

The first snail is encountered on folio 020r, of which the descriptive text is “Virgin Mary and Christ Child — Virgin Mary, nimbed, seated on canopied throne with carved statues, holds in her lap Christ Child, with crossed nimbus, extending both hands toward donor, with hat hanging down his back and purse at waist, kneeling with joined hands raised. Scene in room with landscape with distant city visible through arched doorway at right.
Initial O inhabited by bird, possibly mourning dove or pigeon.
Margins with floreate and vinescroll ornament, inhabited by snail, hawk, and fantastic animal”.



The snail is a dextral specimen, not accurately drawn after nature with the aperture crenate; the animal’s head is pointed, with an eye-spot and a short, curled tentacles (?). Overall it has a glum look.

The next one is on folio 033v, described as “Virgin Mary: Visitation — Virgin Mary, with rayed nimbus, is embraced by Elizabeth, with rayed nimbus, wearing wimpled veil. Both stand on path before wattle wall, behind which stands Zacharias (?), with cane or crutch in left hand. In background are castle-like houses and lake, with distant mountain.
Initial D inhabited by half-figure of woman, wearing turban-like headdress, holding scroll with illegible (damaged) inscription.
Margins with floreate and vinescroll ornament in diagonal bands, inhabited by moth; monkey (?), wearing crown (?), holding spear (?) and seated on snail shell; and bird”.



The shell is dextral and seen from the top side. On closer examination the monkey “spear (?)” looks to me like a bishop’s staff.


Folio 103r is described as follows “Adrian of Nicomedia: Scene, Martyrdom — Adrian, nimbed, wearing short loin cloth, lays across anvil, with his left arm severed. His hand lays on the floor. Flanking Adrian are two tormentors, including one wearing helmet, both with swords sheathed at their waists and holding hammers raised in both hands. Emperor Maximianus I, crowned, wearing ermine-collared mantle, holding scepter in right hand, witnesses martyrdom from behind low wall.
Margins with floreate and vinescroll ornament, inhabited by bird and snail”.



The snail is shown here is ‘2D squashed’ with the shell seen from the top (dextrally coiled) and the animal from the side (undulating and humanised).

Finally, folio 115r has the following description “Two scenes in continuous narrative:
1) Barbara of Nicomedia: Scene, Martyrdom — Dioscorus (?), crowned, wearing ermine-trimmed garment, stands with sword raised in right hand behind Barbara, nimbed, kneeling with joined hands raised.
2) Dioscorus of Nicomedia: Scene, Death (?) — Dioscorus (?), wearing ermine-trimmed garment, falls to ground flanked by two other men, all struck with stones falling from sky. Behind Dioscorus are devils (?).
Margins with floreate and vinescroll ornament in lozenge patterns, inhabited by bird and hybrid man, with human head emerging from snail shell”.



The malacomorph hybrid emerges from a sinistral shell and looks to me like a bearded devil.

This manuscript seems very apt for Chistmas 🙂

[1] PMM, inv. Ms. M.198, 126 ff. http://corsair.morganlibrary.org/msdescr/BBM0198.htm.

(354) RMA RP-P-BI-89


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This engraving is entitled “Allegory of Truth, Knowledge, Hate and Fear”, and was made between 1507 [1] and 1553 by Cornelis Anthonisz. (ca. 1505–1553), who worked in Amsterdam [2]. This print is now in the collection of the Rijksmuseum [3].

The description is “Truth is a woman, her mouth locked, lying in bed. Next to the bed is an old man with a hat on his head (Fear) sitting. In front of him on the floor a snail. A soldier (Hate) on the left, aiming his lance at the woman. Next to the soldier a dog. Knowledge lies as a baby in a manger”.


The snail is stylised, with a sinistral shell, the animal with two tentacles and without a tail.


[1] This data is mentioned in [3] and may have been chosen because the date of birth is unknown and given as 1495/1515 in [2].
[2] https://rkd.nl/explore/artists/2054.
[3] RMA, inv. RP-P-BI-89. http://hdl.handle.net/10934/RM0001.COLLECT.37320.

(353) Round up (iii): Herman Saftleven


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Herman Saftleven (1609–1685) was a painter and draughtsman who, after some years in Rotterdam, settled in Utrecht [2]. He is mainly known by his paintings of landscapes and people.

This drawing from 1664, a cartouche with foliage and a snail on top, is in a private collection [2]. The snail is a dextral specimen of a Cepaea species.

1664 Herman Saftleven_RKD

[1] https://rkd.nl/explore/artists/69247.
[2] https://rkd.nl/explore/images/8860.

(351) PMM M.167


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In the Pierpont Morgan Library, this manuscript is a Book of Hours of the Virgin for Rouen use, wrtitten and illuminated in the late 15th century (1465–1475) [1]. Two instances of malacological interest are included.

Folio 078r has a miniature of the Coronation of the Virgin. The page is described as “Virgin Mary, nimbed, kneels with joined hands raised before Christ, nimbed, crowned, with cross-surmounted globe in left hand and with right hand raised in blessing, seated on throne of canopy type with patterned fabric. Behind them, angel descends with crown toward the Virgin’s head and second angel plays harp. Scene with balustrade decorated with patterned fabric and starred heaven, all within arched gold frame. In lower margin (bas-de-page), ape holding open book rides (mounted on) snail beside beetle. Margins decorated with foliate border of acanthus leaves, flowers, and bird”.



The snail is close to become a hybrid, with two legs (dog-like? rabbit-like?); the animal has an eye-spot and two tentacles.

Folio 159r shows the Holy Trinity in the miniature. Description of the peage reads “Christ, cross-nimbed, wearing crown of thorns, nude, with right hand to His bleeding side wound, is held by God, cross-nimbed, wearing cope with morse, seated on throne of canopy type decorated with patterned fabric. Dove of Holy Ghost, nimbed, hovers between their heads. At left, angel with joined hands raised kneels on floor before the throne, and two angels hover above. Scene before balustrade decorated with patterned fabric, and starred heaven, all within arched gold frame. In right margin, dragonfly. In lower margin (bas-de-page), hybrid animal with bird’s head, long tongue, animal torso and front legs, and snail shell for hind legs has back turned before nude woman drawing bow and arrow. Margins decorated with foliate border of acanthus leaves, flowers, and strawberries”.



This is a malacomorph hybrid with a sinistral shell. The whole scene seems a variation on the ‘knight v. snail’ theme that can be found in earlier manuscripts.

[1] PMM, inv. Ms. M.167, 162 ff. http://corsair.morganlibrary.org/msdescr/BBM0167.htm.

(350) BML PD.1875.0710.2958


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In the British Museum, Print and Drawings Department, this engraving is part of the collection, entitled “Ora Quinta di Giorno”. It was made by Louis François Mariage around 1803–1806 after a design by Raphael. The description reads: “Fifth hour of the day: draped female figure, on dark ground, holding a bunch of herbs and gesturing to the sun; below, a scene representing a dove, a snake coiled around an altar,a lizard and a snail” [1].

BML_PD 1875.0710.2958_

The snail is dextral with two tentacles but rather stylised.

BML_PD 1875.0710.2958_d

[1] BML, inv. PD 1875.0710.2958. http://to.ly/L0He.