A rare late 17th century Jamaican Colonial engraved tortoiseshell powder box dated 1676 possibly by Paul Bennett of Port Royal

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Lot 40Y
A rare late 17th century Jamaican Colonial engraved tortoiseshell powder box dated 1676

possibly by Paul Bennett of Port Royal

Sold for £ 18,750 (US$ 25,394) inc. premium
A rare late 17th century Jamaican Colonial engraved tortoiseshell powder box dated 1676

possibly by Paul Bennett of Port Royal
of circular form, the lid engraved with the arms of Jamaica, inscribed JAMAICA 1676 and initialled AP within a foliate border, the sides with scrolling flowers including tulips and sunflowers, 13.5cm diameter, 6.5cm high

Footnotes

  • This powder box and cover, most likely used to hold wig rather than face powder, closely relates to a small group of objects which are some of the earliest known surviving works of art reflecting European culture from Jamaica. After England's conquest of Jamaica from the Spanish colonists in 1655, Port Royal developed into a large city and the thriving commercial centre of Jamaica. However, this all came to an end when a massive earthquake devastated the city in 1692 and two thirds of the city was swept under the sea.

    The Institute of Jamaica has a similar powder box, combs and one large box. The first comb was purchased in London by members of the West India Committee in 1923. It was described by H.M.Cundall in The West India Committee Circular, (1923) as 'probably one of the earliest art objects in the British West Indies displaying European influence'. It was thought to have belonged to the Buccaneer, Sir Henry Morgan who was lieutenant governor of Jamaica between 1674-1682. In 1676 Sir Henry wanted to send a present to Sir William Coventry and chose, 'two large turtle-shell combes in a case the same'.

    Of the works in the Jamaican Institute's collection it is thought that they are from the hands of two craftsmen working between 1671-84 and 1688-1692 respectively. The above lot offered here can be linked to the first group. Other known pieces in other collections again by this first maker include the Sir Cuthbert Grundy comb case, dated 1672, a round powder box lid and comb case in a private U.S collection dated 1677 and the 'Lady Smith' casket, which is considered to be the craftsman's masterpiece.

    Philip Hart in his article Tortoiseshell Comb Cases, for the Jamaica Journal, (November 1983) reveals that relatively recent research brought to light a possible candidate for a maker. Among the list of craftsmen and tradesmen in Port Royal before 1692 there appears the name Paul Bennett, the only recorded comb maker. It is therefore possible that Bennett was the maker of this piece from the first group and possibly that this son, apprentice or assistant was the maker of the second group.

Saleroom notices

  • Please note that the initials in script on the lid of the box are MP; also this lot is subject to CITES regulations, please see online catalogue information for further details or refer to the department.
Contacts
A rare late 17th century Jamaican Colonial engraved tortoiseshell powder box dated 1676 possibly by Paul Bennett of Port Royal
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Lot symbols
Y CITES

Subject to CITES regulations when exporting items outside of the EU, see clause 13.

App