601
601

PROPERTY FROM THE ESTATES OF PRICE AND ISOBEL H. GLOVER

Very Rare Engraved Silver-Mounted Tortoiseshell Comb and Case, Attributed to Paul Bennett, Port Royal, Jamaica, 1688
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601

PROPERTY FROM THE ESTATES OF PRICE AND ISOBEL H. GLOVER

Very Rare Engraved Silver-Mounted Tortoiseshell Comb and Case, Attributed to Paul Bennett, Port Royal, Jamaica, 1688
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Details & Cataloguing

Important Americana

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New York

Very Rare Engraved Silver-Mounted Tortoiseshell Comb and Case, Attributed to Paul Bennett, Port Royal, Jamaica, 1688
inscribed PORT ROYAL, IN JAMAICA 1688.; the obverse of the case engraved with coat of arms with five pineapples flanked by figures of natives standing on a banderole engraved in the legend: INDUS SERVIET : UNI, TERVE; the reverse engraved with palm trees, pineapple bushes; the corners inlaid with silver.
8 by 4 3/4 in.
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Provenance

Collection of Percival D. Griffiths.

Catalogue Note

There are now extant at least a dozen late seventeenth-century tortoiseshell combs and cases made from the shell of the hawksbill turtle, which is found in the waters of Jamaica. Engraved on both sides of the combs are vines and tulip-like flowers similar to engravings found on silver of that time.

The cases are riveted with metal pins, most often silver, and some of the finer examples are mounted with silver at the corners of the case. The decorations on the cases varied in their detail and depictions. The most commonly used decoration was the Jamaican coat of arms, which includes a shield depicting five pineapples in a cross.  The shield is surmounted by a crocodile set between two native Arawak Indians.  In addition, pineapple, cashew, banana, cactus and coconut plants and trees are often included within the engraving. 

Most of these tortoiseshell cases are dated. The earliest known example dates to 1671 and the latest dated 1692, with some of the later examples further inscribed “Port Royal in Jamaica.” Port Royal was a successful shipping hub that was completely decimated in 1692 by an earthquake.1

The attribution to Paul Bennett is due to the fact that among lists of tradesmen and craftsmen in Port Royal, prior to 1692, he is the only comb maker on record.

There is another example of a double-sided tortoiseshell comb and case in the Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur collection (see, Jonathan L. Fairbanks, [et al], and Robert F. Trent, New England Begins: The Seventeenth Century, Vol. 1, {Museum of Fine Arts Boston}, p. 388, no. 391a and 391b).  Another example was sold in these rooms, October 16, 2009, sale 8583, lot 82.  More recently, an example with similar attribution and decoration sold, Bonham’s London, October 25, 2017, lot 39.

1Jonathan L. Fairbanks, [et al], and Robert F. Trent, New England Begins: The Seventeenth Century, Vol. 1, (Boston, Massachusetts: Museum of Fine Arts Boston), p. 387-88. 

Important Americana

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New York