In the 1720s, Naples became the centre of a particular type of decorative work, known as piqué. Shell from the hawksbill turtle was moulded into boxes, furniture, ewers, inkstands and other useful objects, and then decorated by inlaying mother of pearl, gold and fine gold pins. Turtleshell is a natural plastic, which expands and becomes malleable when heated, enabling the tiny pins to be hammered in patterns, contracting when it cools, holding them in place. The Rothschild family had a particular fascination for piqué and collected it since the nineteenth century.
Earliest Rothschild collector: Alice de Rothschild; b.1847, d.1922
Credit: Waddesdon (Rothschild Family)...