The Consequence of Beauty

I consider myself relatively sensitive to God’s lesser creatures, I am essentially vegetarian (aside from the fish that I guiltily consume), I try to avoid leather, I am unaware of friends possessing garments made of fur, and of course dogs are a burning issue.

That said todays paper pointed out the atrocious exploitation of the nautilus. According to the article, millions have been slaughtered to satisfy our desire for the pretty shell. I stand amongst that crowd of greedy collectors, my own curiosity cabinet contains a few. I won’t purchase anymore, but I am appalled at my own insensitivity. I hadn’t really thought of the pretty shell as  having once belonged to this spectacular and ancient creature. I rather just accepted the shell as being something to collect and admire, my ignorance is disturbing. 

Source: Today’s New York Times

To celebrate this poor creature, I will, rather perversely highlight a few particularly lovely examples of how the creature’s sacrifice was made seemingly worthwhile, at least from an aesthetic perspective.

Nautilus Snail


nautilus shell, silver gilt 

Wadsworth Athaneum



silver gilt, polished shell

Not a nautilus shell but quite beautiful AND someone’s home

Victoria & Albert Museum

Nautilus Cup

mid 17th cent.

nautilus shell, silver gilt

Wadsworth Athaneum

I don’t believe these courtly objects were the cause of the near demise of the nautilus; it is of course the gross exploitation that pumps out hideous baubles. As the biologist Peter D. Ward, as quoted in today’s New York times states, “A horrendous slaughter is going on out here.” We need to be mindful of that. I for one will be less glib, and less tempted to purchase shells, no matter how beautiful they may be.

Until take time, take care,

Babylon Baroque

6 Responses to “The Consequence of Beauty”

  1. Thank you for this — I had no idea and I admire those shells as well. I’ll be sure to share this post. Hope you are doing well!

  2. I hope your warning is timely, and that the nautilus can survive despite man’s insatiable desire to take everything from nature that catches his eye. Years ago I had thought that people has so turned against exotic furs that we would never see their like again on the catwalk. But the fur lobbyists courted the up and coming fashion students and suddenly fur was back up on the catwalks again, worn by some of the very models who had sworn they would never put it on their backs again. (Damn and blast Naomi Cambell!)

    I love shells too, and have a jar of them in the studio, collected over many years. I thought they were things that simply washed up on beaches. Alas, that is no longer the case.

    Good post Leonard. Well done.

  3. babylonbaroque Says:

    Thanks, the credit of course goes to the NYT, I’m just spreading the word so to speak. It is terribly easy to forget these lovely curiosities were home to some creature. Difficult to remember we are not the center of the universe.
    As always happy to hear from you, your latest painting is wonderful, so exciting.
    Take care,

  4. These nautilus chalices would have had pride of place in someone’s wunderkammer, that’s for sure!

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