A rare late 17th century Jamaican Colonial engraved tortoiseshell and silver mounted wig comb case containing two combs dated 1683 possibly by Paul Bennett of Port Royal

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Lot 39Y
A rare late 17th century Jamaican Colonial engraved tortoiseshell and silver mounted wig comb case containing two combs dated 1683
possibly by Paul Bennett of Port Royal

Sold for £ 46,250 (US$ 61,648) inc. premium
A rare late 17th century Jamaican Colonial engraved tortoiseshell and silver mounted wig comb case containing two combs dated 1683
possibly by Paul Bennett of Port Royal
the case of rectangular form, one side depicting the arms of Jamaica above the wording JAMAICA 1683 and twin pineapple motifs within an undulating foliate border, the silver corner mounts engraved with flowerheads, the reverse side engraved to depict indigenous trees and plants within a conforming border and mounts, the case holding one doube sided fine comb and one single sided coarse comb, each engraved with vaious flowerhead and scrolling foiate motifs,
21cm high x 14cm wide x 0.7cm deep

Footnotes

  • This wig comb case and combs closely relate 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 eleven of these combs, one large box with combs and one powder 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 combs in a case the same'.

    The trees and plants on the above lot represents some of the products of the Jamaican economy of that time and the crocodile is from the then newly awarded arms of Jamaica. The two sizes of comb are usual, the narrow toothed comb is thought to have been for extracting lice and the wide tooth comb for wigs.

    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 second 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 first group and possibly his son, apprentice or assistant was the maker of the second group which this forms part.

    Another example possibly by Bennett is in the V & A collection (524 to B-1877). See also Sotheby's New York, Important English Furniture, 16th October 2009, lot 82 (realised $20,000 hammer) for another case and pair of combs dated 1688 which is engraved with the Jamaican coat of arms.

Saleroom notices

  • Please note that engraved date of the case is 1685.
Contacts
A rare late 17th century Jamaican Colonial engraved tortoiseshell and silver mounted wig comb case containing two combs dated 1683 possibly by Paul Bennett of Port Royal
A rare late 17th century Jamaican Colonial engraved tortoiseshell and silver mounted wig comb case containing two combs dated 1683 possibly by Paul Bennett of Port Royal
A rare late 17th century Jamaican Colonial engraved tortoiseshell and silver mounted wig comb case containing two combs dated 1683 possibly by Paul Bennett of Port Royal
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