Goldwork and Jewellery


India, Gujarat

16th century

Tortoise shell; silver, chiselled, cut and cast

Inventory sheet

This coffer, datable to the second half of the 16th century, was executed in translucent tortoiseshell plates taken from the belly of the shell. The silver mountings are decorated with vegetal and animal motifs. On the lock is the characteristic lizard-shaped bolt which, in the light of Indian iconology, is interpreted as a symbol of fire and immortality.
Like some of the tortoiseshell coffers found in other Portuguese collections, this piece does not display any features that point to a specific function. It is known that some of these coffers were used in convents and churches to contain relics, which would not have excluded them from having other functions.