An engraved tortoiseshell and silver mounted comb case, dated 1688

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Lot 50
An engraved tortoiseshell and silver mounted comb case, dated 1688

Sold for £ 9,870 (US$ 13,206) inc. premium
An engraved tortoiseshell and silver mounted comb case, dated 1688
Of rectangular form, one side depicting the arms of Jamaica and titled above 'PORTROYAL IN JAMAICA 1688', within a repeated foliate border and cornered by silver mounts engraved with flowerhead motifs, the reverse side engraved to depict indigenous trees and plants, within a conforming border and mounts, the case holding one double sided and one single sided comb, each engraved with vaious flowerhead and foliate motifs. 19cm high x 12cm wide x 1cm deep.

Footnotes

  • Tortoiseshell objets d’art were made in Jamaica in the late 17th Century, in Spanish Town and Port Royal, prior to the Great Earthquake of 1692. This case is decorated with the arms of Jamaica, and inscribed ‘Port Royal Jamaica 1688’ and with the latin motto meaning ‘From many, one people’. The reverse is decorated with indigenous trees and fruits. There are few known examples of this type of comb, and just one other silver-mounted comb case of this period is documented. It is in the collection of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

    In 1494 Christopher Columbus was the first European to discover Jamaica whilst exploring the Caribbean, mistakenly thinking he had finally discovered the Far East. He was so convinced, in fact, that he forced his men to take a solemn oath that the land mass was a promontory of Asia. Despite this, Jamaica was never heavily populated by the Spanish, partly due to the absence of gold on the island. Instead it was used as a base for their conquest of the Americas. Great wealth was brought to the island by the buccaneers, who operated mainly from Port Royal, by plundering Spanish ships which transported gold and silver from South America

    In 1655 the British Admirals Penn and Venables captured Jamaica and effectively ousted the Spanish. The British used the island to their full advantage, importing African slaves by the thousand to work on the sugar plantations, while the plantation owners became enormously wealthy. The island prospered under the rule of the British. By the late 17th Century, Port Royal had earned the reputation of being the richest and the wickedest city in the world. In 1692 this town suffered destruction by an earthquake in which more than half of the town sank beneath the sea. This signaled the end of piracy in the West Indies.


    Related articles:

    Jen Cruze, "Colonial Craftsmanship in Jamaica", America in Britain, XXXIX, p18-25

    Frank Cundall, "Tortoiseshell Carving: a notable specimen", West India Committee Circular, XLIV, #801, 13 June 1929

    Frank Cundall, "Tortoiseshell Carving in Jamaica", The Connoisseur, 1922

An engraved tortoiseshell and silver mounted comb case, dated 1688
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