Thanks to the Léon Courtin-Marcelle Bouché Fund, the Hof van Busleyden Museum can now permanently exhibit a rare coconut and silver cup, which was made in Mechelen and loaned to the museum on the occasion of its opening.
Cups in coconut such as this are especially uncommon and rarely appear on the world’s art market. This piece is of even greater interest because it was made in Mechelen during the Burgundian and Habsburg period. At that time, Mechelen was renowned for its silverwork and the city’s seal is clearly visible on the foot of the cup. In fact, this magnificent cup, with its long stem and lid, is the only piece in coconut known with certitude to have come from the silver workshops of Mechelen and it has been particularly well preserved.
The hallmarks on the cup’s silverwork, attributed to silversmiths Dirk I or Dirk II van Eyck, date it as being from 1602. The Van Eyck family practiced silverwork in Mechelen for at least three generations. Dirk I married the daughter of Anthoine Dauxon, and was silversmith to Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, and Master General of Coins in the former Low Countries. Several of the silver ciboria, cups and spoons in the collection of Saint Rumbold’s Cathedral in Mechelen and that of the Collegiate Church of Saint Peter in Leuven were also made by the Dirk family.
During the 16th century, Portuguese traders imported coconuts to Western Europe from Africa and the Indies and these exotic products were greatly valued for their therapeutic properties. During his visit to Antwerp in 1520, the engraver and painter Albrecht Dürer purchased several coconuts. Sometimes very highly worked, the coconuts were transformed into cups and presented as luxury products in the cabinets of well-known traders or powerful people. A cup similar to this one very probably featured in the Naturalia et Artificalia collection assembled by Margaret of Austria in her palace in Mechelen.