This ivory veneered and painted box was made in the early 17th century, probably to celebrate a marriage between two princely families.

The unusual combinations of paintings and materials on this box represent almost every corner of the globe. Knowledge of some of the animals and plants depicted would have only recently reached Europe.  The materials used to make this box were themselves sourced from corners of the world that were newly accessed via European trade networks. So, although we don’t know what it might have contained, the way this beautiful box reflects the knowledge of the period makes it like a miniature cabinet of curiosities.

This exquisitely painted box also presents an unsolved mystery. Who made it, and where? Who was it made for? Why did the artists choose to paint these plants and animals? Through research as a part of the Illuminating Objects internship programme, MSc Science Communication student Katrina Brain tried to answer these questions, and reveal some of the scientific developments that led to the creation of this splendid object.