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Six-sided enameled box painted with scenes of figures and animals.

The hexagonal sides of this box each show the head of a light-skinned, sorrowful-looking figure surrounded by botanical details. One figure is a woman with curly hair. The other is a man with a blue helmet. Each rectangular side of the box shows a scene, including a skeleton standing next to a human torso, a seated woman with exposed décolleté being touched on the chest by a standing man, a woman holding a basket of leaves on her head, a nude woman waving fabric in the wind, a couple standing close together, and a nude child riding a white horse.

Gallery Text

Private patronage of art increased during the sixteenth century, significantly expanding the range of possible subject matter. The new themes often derived from classical models and displayed a naturalism that reflected the growing influence of humanism. Though no longer unequivocally Christian in content, these objects nevertheless continued to address moral issues and to concern themselves with the nature of the soul. For example, the salt cellars, which illustrate the labors of Hercules, are generally a metaphor for the triumph of virtue. With the growth of a mercantile economy and the consequent increase in lay patronage, figures of vanity and death also became popular subjects, as is evidenced by objects in this case.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Unidentified Artist
Salt Cellar with Allegorical Scenes
Work Type
c. 1550
Creation Place: Europe, France, Limoges
Persistent Link


Level 2, Room 2540, European Art, 13th–16th century, The Renaissance
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Physical Descriptions

Enamel on copper
sight: 7 x 7.6 cm (2 3/4 x 3 in.)


Recorded Ownership History
Mrs. Jessie Isidor Straus, gift; to Fogg Art Museum, 1957

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Gift of Mrs. Jesse Isidor Straus in memory of her husband, Jesse Isidor Straus, Class of 1893
Accession Year
Object Number
European and American Art

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Exhibition History

  • 32Q: 2540 Renaissance, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

Subjects and Contexts

  • Google Art Project

Related Works

Verification Level

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