200 George Street

House proud

Case 6

Home decoration and display was popular in the past, just as it is today. Shells and figurines typically sat on mantlepieces and fireplaces within Victorian homes. Unlike most of the assemblage, these items have no function other than to decorate and brighten the rooms. Mass produced and reasonably priced, figurines were popular among working people. Strangely only a small number of figurines were identified at the site, such as this badly damaged one of a man who appears to be holding a bird in one hand.

Exotic shells were collected and traded for natural history collections. During the Victorian period this was a popular hobby, and unusual shells, plants or animals were collected and displayed, often as part of a cabinet of curiosities.

The shell of a chambered nautilus has been a source of curiosity since the Renaissance. Each chamber is formed by the growing nautilus, before it moves its growing body into the larger space and seals the old one behind it.

Someone painstakingly carved the matte exterior of this shell away to form an elegant and delicate raised floral design. This was commonly done by sailors, producing intricate patterns. More extravagant examples were mounted on stems to form cups and used to decorate homes. This shell was likely to have taken pride of place as part of a family’s natural history collection. It is a rare object of beguiling and captivating beauty.est laborum.

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