Recovered from the shipwrecked Spanish Galleon Nuestra Señora de Atocha.
The salt-cellar is structured around four sections, with each recipient having a round cross-section, and coming together to form a pyramid structure when assembled on top of each other. The lower one, which serves as the base, is mounted on a six-sided stand with short spherical legs at each of the corners, on top of which there is a convex section. On top of this there is another of the same shape with a deep concavity for storing the salt; on top of this a second recipient is arranged, this time cylindrical and somewhat taller, which also has a concave depression to serve as a receptacle for the salt. And the fourth part, at the top, is shaped like a bell, whose pyramid-shaped handle (which screws off) has a perforated ball at the end for sprinkling pepper. The entire piece is decorated with abstract engraved scrollwork (c’s) around oval and rectangular mirrors worked in relief, as are the little stud-like rhombuses. The background surfaces have been slightly raised in relief, and this technique produces a magnificent contrasting light effect by allowing the decorative elements to stand out against a toned down background. All of the sections of the salt-cellar have cast ribs, with superimposed mirrors on those at the dome-shaped top.
This piece was devised for the seasoning of meat at part of a dinner service, being designed to contain two essential spices for use in such dishes; salt and pepper. Furthermore, salt-cellars had the added value of a secondary function; that of being a decorative element and an iconic reference, pointing to the class of the diners being served at table. And that was the reason why impressive so-called salt-cellars were executed (as opposed to pepper shakers or spice pots), in spite of the fact that they were often used to hold pepper and other condiments.