Recent movies about the sea, such as "Pirates of the Caribbean," have called attention to maritime history, creating a wave of renewed interest in nautical antiques. The octagonal shell boxes called Sailor's Valentines sell for as much as $35,000 these days (with modern repros fetching several hundred) and demand is also surging for Victorian shell art frames and seascapes. A pair of medium-sized, empty shell frames is offered elsewhere online for $5,500.
You can enjoy this remarkable piece for a great deal less. It combines both intricate shellwork framing and a delightful seascape, even tossing in some mosswork for good measure. Beneath domed glass, we find a very appealing image of a tall ship under sail -- given extra depth in its round shadow box by a foreground of moss and shells, as well as a deep inner rim painted blue to intensify colors. Showcasing this image perfectly, there's a frame fully surfaced with mixed seashells, styled in the anchor shape that symbolized faith in the 19th century. The shells appear to be cowries, cockles, scallops, augurs, nutmegs, luminous moon snails and more -- all intact and arranged with exquisite symmetry on carved wood or perhaps papier-mache. Even the backing paper, grained like wood, and brass hanging hook are in fabulous original condition. This is clearly a professional creation, not something assembled at home as a memento of a beach holiday (although those can be lovely, too). Overall size is substantial: 11 inches tall, 8 1/2 wide and about an inch deep. The old convex glass gives it considerable weight, naturally. The thickness and shape of the glass make it impossible to tell whether the image is an original watercolor or a print (which ordinarily would show a dot transfer pattern). Either way, it's mesmerizing -- wonderfully detailed, down to a white froth of waves stirred as the ship advances in heavy winds.
Probable dating would be circa 1850 and provenance is an English estate. We acquired it at an East Anglian auction sale.
There's no charge for insured U.S. Priority shipping and gift-wrap is always free when desired. Please e-mail to confirm availability, order or request more photos. Thanks for looking!