110pp, incl index. Illustrated by 100 ill, 78 in colour.
The shell is one of nature’s paradoxes. The discarded protective case of small soft-bodied animals might seem an unlikely source of mystic symbolism and artistic inspiration: yet this functional creation of nature, in its myriad forms and colours, displays a beauty and an intricacy that defy the mind and hand of man. And so we marvel, borrow and adapt.
From ancient times, the shell has been the focus of fantasy and fascination, playing a significant role in myth and in religion. Gradually, as the age of exploration brought ever more exotic examples to European shores, it became an object of curiosity and ornament. Cabinets of rarities gave pride of place to conchological collections; fine books were filled with exquisite engravings of every type of mollusc; grottoes and architectural interiors encrusted with products of the sea became the rage; and finally the shell motif was carried into every branch of decoration and design.
From Rococo and Rocaille, through Victorian kitsch to twentieth century refinement, in paintings and porcelain, furniture and fashion, the shell is everywhere. Creative artists of our own day have rediscovered the shell, exploiting its elegance, its variety, its patterns and its polish to delight and surprise in sometimes unexpected ways.
Here Patrick Mauries pays homage to the shapely shell, showing it in all its glory and in all its applications. His enthusiasm is infectious as he takes us exuberantly through this history of taste and style. The text sparkles, the illustrations dazzle, the whole is a work of sophistication and enchantment.
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