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Still Life with Shells

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  • Siobhan Leachman asked

    Do you know the species names of the shells, insects, animals and plants depicted in this painting?

  • Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen answered

    Hi Siobhan, thank you for your interesting question. Via e-mail I will send you a more in depth answer, here's the short version: This exotic collection of shells of (sea)snails is completed with five cherries on the left and a few twigs of red currants on the right. A European Peacock (Aglais io) butterfly and a fly hover above the arrangement. A lizard on a shell seems to look at the fly. The shells, from left to right, can be identified as follows: 1. Conus pennaceus (‘feathered cone’); 2. Liguus fasciatus (‘Liguus tree snail’); 3. Pusionella nifat; 4. Polymita picta (‘Cuban land snail’); 5. Mitra episcopalis (‘Episcopal miter’); 6. Voluta musica (‘music volute’); 7. Bolinus cornutus (‘horned murex’); 8. Nerita polita (‘polished nerite’); 9. Trochus spec.; 10. Turbo sarmaticus (‘South African turban/giant periwrinkle’); 11. Cittarium pica (‘West Indian top shell/magpie shell’); 12. Amphidromus perseverus; 13. Turris spectabilis; 14. Murex motacilla; 15. Conus marmoreus (‘marbled cone’); 16. Chicoreus brunneus (‘adusta murex’); 17. Cypraea tigris (‘tiger cowrie’); 18. Pugilina morio (‘giant hairy melongena’); 19. Conus pulcher (‘butterfly cone’); 20. Murex ternispina (‘black-spined murex’); 21. Lambis lambis (‘spider conch’) Best, Tanja van Oostrum


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More information

Extraordinary shells from distant lands were highly collectable in the 16th and 17th centuries. They arrived in the Dutch Republic on trading ships from the Dutch East and West Indies. We find them in collector's cabinets and in still lifes. The shells depicted here can be easily identified as originating from Indonesia, The Dutch West Indies, Cuba, Florida and West and South Africa.

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Collection book

Collection book Order


Title Still Life with Shells
Material and technique Oil on panel
Object type
Painting > Painting > Two-dimensional object > Art object
Location Wereldmuseum
Dimensions Width 47 cm
Height 30 cm
Artists Schilder: Balthasar van der Ast
Accession number 2173 (OK)
Credits Uit de nalatenschap van / from the estate of: dhr. en mevr. / Mr. and Mrs. G.L.P. Philips-Van der Willigen 1942
Department Old Masters
Acquisition date 1942
Age artist Between 39 and 64 years old
Exhibitions The Collection Enriched (2011)
De collectie als tijdmachine (2017)
External exhibitions A Global Table (2017)
Geographical origin Northern Netherlands > The Netherlands > Western Europe > Europe

All about the artist

Balthasar van der Ast

Middelburg 1593/1594 - Delft 1657

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