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Shellwork Bouquet (coquillage) (England)

This is a Shellwork bouquet (coquillage). It is dated ca. 1850 and we acquired it in 1971. Its medium is shells (coquillage), blown glass, walnut. It is a part of the Product Design and Decorative Arts department.

Shells, once prized as rare artifacts that held magical qualities, became increasingly available in seventeenth-century England through maritime and colonial expeditions. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the English used shells to decorate walls, furniture, picture frames, and to create freestanding figures and other items. Well-to-do women with the finances to afford the expensive tools and materials required used shells to fashion artistic ornaments, like this shell work bouquet, as one of many leisure-time activities. They learned such art—not yet deemed "craft"—through paid instruction or how-to manuals, especially by the 1850s and later. Less-skilled practitioners could purchase such ornaments ready-made. The works, protected from dust and curious fingers by a blown glass dome, would be placed on mantels or elsewhere in the parlor as part of the room’s feminine decor. The English interest at this time in naturalism and amateur botany, as well as a close attention to detail can also be seen here: the realistic-looking bouquet could even substitute for real flowers.

This object was donated by Channing Hare. It is credited Gift of Channing Hare.

  • Drawing, Inkstand
  • pen and brown ink, brush and brown wash, graphite on off-white laid paper.
  • Museum purchase through gift of various donors and from Eleanor G. Hewitt Fund.
  • 1938-88-8189

Our curators have highlighted 3 objects that are related to this one.

Its dimensions are

H x diam.: 57 x 20 cm (22 7/16 x 7 7/8 in.)

Cite this object as

Shellwork Bouquet (coquillage) (England); shells (coquillage), blown glass, walnut; H x diam.: 57 x 20 cm (22 7/16 x 7 7/8 in.); Gift of Channing Hare; 1971-7-4-a/f

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If you would like to cite this object in a Wikipedia article please use the following template:

<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url= |title=Shellwork Bouquet (coquillage) (England) |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=24 March 2023 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>