Picture, Shell

Object ID
Communication Artifacts, Art
Date Made
circa 1880
Wood; shell; glass; metal

Sailor's valentine in an octagonal wooden case, made from shells glued into patterns. The left side has a heart and a rose shape in a central circle surrounded by symmetrical strips of shells of varying colours. The right side has shells arranged to spell out "Forget Me Not" with rose designs and an artistic shell border. The left side of the case has a blue background and the right side has a pink background. The case has a metal hook closing mechanism

History of Use
The following note is found in the old catalogue: "Sailors' valentines like this one were once thought to have been made by sailors as gifts, but research shows that many of the shell work pieces were probably made as nautical souvenirs by enterprising artisans on the island of Barbados. Some valentines carry the classic phrases "When this you see, remember me" or "Forget me not." The owner of this sailor's valentine may have been a sailor who sailed between these waters and tropical ports. As they traveled around the world, sailors often made or purchased mementos of their travels for their loved ones back home. During their idle time on board ship, many men carved bone or ivory into trinkets or useful household items such as pie crimpers or winding swifts. Items that were commonly bought in ports of call included jugs, glass rolling pins, and ornate "sailor's valentines" from the island of Barbados." The old catalogue also notes: "Good aesthetic value, representing traditional marine folk art. Although often thought as sailor’s craft work, these and similar shell work pieces were more souvenirs purchased by seaman while visiting Caribbean waters."