Nuestra Señora de Atocha Salt Cellar, No later than 1622
Vice-Regency of Peru
Gilt silver; cast, turned, engraved, finely punched with dots and slightly raised in relief.
State of preservation: excellent.
Mark repeated twice at the base of the cylindrical body: royal crown inside a pearled circle.
Height: 31 cm
Maximum width (base): 17.5 cm
Weight: 2,457 g
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.