Works of art made of rare woods, exotic nuts, sea shells, ivory, or tortoise held an important place in 17th and 18th century collections. Many of these collections were found in Amsterdam, the major port where these materials were imported. Costly shells from distant seas were engraved or mounted in precious objects.
The most famous mother-of-pearl worker of the second half of the 17th century was Cornelis Bellekin (w.c.1650-1700). Although Bellekin was famous in his own time, almost nothing is known about him today. Traveller Z.C. von Uffenbach states in his account of his 1711 trip to Amsterdam about the master, "C. Bellekins welcher der beste perlenmutter schneider alhier gewesen." In 18th century sale catalogues he is always mentioned with the highest regard, often called Celeber Artifex.
Shells by Cornelis Bellekin formed part of the famous collections of Petronella de la Court (1624-1707), Simon Schijnvoet (1652-1727) and Albertus Seba (1665-1736). William Beckford also owned a Bellekin carved nautilus shell which was later mounted to a silver-gilt triton and illustrated in Derek Ostegard, William Beckford 1760-1844: An Eye for the Magnificent, New York, 2001, p. 152.
Two carved, engraved, and signed Bellekin mother-of-pearl plaques sold at Christie's Amsterdam, the first from the Collection of Albertus Seba (1665-1736) on 13 November 2001, lot 367, and the second 18 June 2002, lot 385. The second plaque depicts the same scene of Diana as the present lot.