Marten's Head

Italianca. 1550-1559

The Walters Art Museum

The Walters Art Museum

This jeweled marten's head is nearly identical to that attached to the fur held by the countess in Veronese's portrait of Countess da Porto (Walters 37.541) and is displayed here in a similar way. The animal was associated with childbirth, and wearing its fur was believed to increase a woman's fertility and protect her during pregnancy. Since antiquity, the marten had been thought to conceive through its ear or mouth (and therefore chastely). The dove on the creature's nose may be a symbol of the Holy Ghost and further allude to Mary's miraculous conception. This would add to the amulet's protective powers.

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  • Title: Marten's Head
  • Date Created: ca. 1550-1559
  • Physical Dimensions: h8.4 cm
  • Type: ornaments
  • Rights: Museum acquisition by exchange, 1967, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/
  • External Link: The Walters Art Museum
  • Medium: gold with enamel, rubies, garnets, and pearls
  • Provenance: John Hunt, Dublin, Ireland; Walters Art Museum, 1967, by exchange.
  • Place of Origin: Venice, Italy
  • ExhibitionHistory: World of Wonder. The Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore. 1971-1972; Jewelry - Ancient to Modern. The Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore. 1979-1980; Illuminated Manuscripts: Masterpieces in Miniature. The Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore. 1984-1985; Highlights from the Collection. The Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore. 1998-2001; At Home in Renaissance Italy. Victoria and Albert Museum, London. 2006-2007
  • Artist: Italian