Victorian Shell Picture #1
Square-riggers, windjammers & tea-clippers sailed the oceans in the Age of Sail. Sailors spent weeks in local ports, resting from a long voyage, searching for interesting gifts to take home. Hand woven textiles from Calcutta, porcelain from Foochow, gaucho trinkets from Rio. In the Caribbean port of Barbados, where sugar, rum and lumber were loaded, sailors commissioned highly popular framed shell compositions from local artists. Typically framed in octagonal mahogany frames, many of the 19th century originals have survived and are now recognized as true expressions of folk art. No book about Nautical Antiques, no Marine Auction at Christieís or Sothebyís is complete without reference to original shell frames. Antique Sailorís Valentines are selling for prices between eight and eighteen thousand dollars. The original artists often incorporated a sentimental message of love for the sailorís sweetheart at home. Flower patterns, hearts and windroses were popular designs used in the compositions. For this reason they became known over time as Sailorís Valentines. Alor, in the Molucca archipelago of Indonesia, is only one island among thousands. The sun shines every day, the beaches are white and fringed by palm trees. Coastal communities subsist by the grace of the ocean. At low tide, young and old rush out to the beach and reef. Larger shellfish like conch, clams and cowries are gathered for food. The very young walk the flood line to collect tiny empty shells. The ocean gives them up each day in an astonishing variety of colors and sizes.
H. 2.56 in. / 6.5 cm. Diam. 15 in. / 38.1 cm.
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