Click main image below to view enlargements and captions.

Maritime, Collectible, Sailors’ Folk Art, Shell Valentine


Sailor’s Valentine
Shells mounted in mahogany box
Late 20th Century
10 x 10 inches overall; 2.5 inches deep

Colorful tropical shells are mounted in geometric patterns in an octagonal mahogany box, enclosed with glass, with a brass loop for hanging. It is in the styule of Sailor’s Valentine folk art objects hand crafted by sailors for their loved ones during long journeys at sea.

Fine condition overall.


Collecting natural history specimens began among doctors and pharmacists in the 16th century, and was taken up by European aristocrats. It continued as a popular hobby for the well-to-do through the 19th century. The craze for amassing collections of shells, insects, taxidermic specimens of animals and minerals was fueled by the Enlightenment mindset of the 18th century, which was preoccupied with creating comprehensive systems of classifying natural phenomena. This ideal was fueled by the exploration of distant territories that could only be reached by ship, where species hitherto unknown to Europeans were discovered and documented. The impulse to classify was accompanied by a fascination with exotic species, and also with oddities and aberrations such as two-headed snakes. Read more in our online article about Collector’s Cabinets.

Additional information


20th Century