A Double Octagonal Shellwork Sailors Valentine

19th century

A magnificent double octagonal glass-fronted shellwork sailor's valentine. The hinged mahogany frame enclosing elaborate decoration of shells in concentric patterns.

Stock number

Height: 4 in (10 cm)
Width: 12⁵/₈ in (32 cm)
Depth: 12⁵/₈ in (32 cm)
Sailor's valentines are a specific type of shellwork incorporating geometric mosaics of shells within octagonal wooden glass-fronted boxes.  The designs often featured hearts, flowers, and a compass rose and required dozens of different types of shells to create the intricate pattern.  Some examples feature charming sentiments, such as ‘Forget Me Not’ or ‘Truly Thine.’  These fascinating specimens date from the late 18th and 19th centuries and were often made in Barbados.  Barbados was an important port for North Atlantic ships and would have been one of the final stops before reaching home.  Sailors would often acquire these shell specimens as a souvenir to give to loved ones.  

It took dozens of different types of shells to create the intricate patterns in various textures, shapes, and sizes.  While many of the shells were local there are also specimens that include shells imported from Indonesia. 
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