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{"id":5591797334166,"title":"Antique Mother Of Pearl Carved Shell, Nativity Scene, Large Size, Bethlehem, The Holy Land – Late 19th Century","handle":"antique-mother-of-pearl-carved-shell-nativity-scene-large-size-bethlehem-the-holy-land-late-19th-century","description":"\u003cp\u003eThis large shell is rich in decoration and symbolism and has been exceptionally well carved in high and low relief with engraved panels and intricately pierced ornamentation depicting a moment shortly after the birth of the infant Jesus in a stable in Bethlehem.\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eSomewhat surprisingly, the majority of these shells were crafted by Arab workers in the Holy Land and many of the best carvers were women.  The principal production and trading centres were in Jerusalem and Bethlehem, where shells would be sold to Christians visiting the popular pilgrimage sites who would buy them as mementoes of their travels, gifts for others and as an amulet to protect them from dangers during their journey back home.  Up until the 1950s, when mechanisation was first introduced, this intricate work was done entirely by hand, using only the most basic tools.  The shells were initially sourced from stocks in the Red Sea, which were later supplemented by imported shells from India, South America, New Zealand etc.\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eThis shell has a deeply carved rose finial to the top and the principal image is of a simple stable surrounded by a bower of roses.  Inside the stable are (left to right) the figures of Joseph, Mary, the infant Jesus in a manger, an ox and an ass. A shepherd kneels in worship at the front of the manger, whilst another shepherd stands to one side with his crook.  In the foreground are two lambs which the shepherds have brought as gifts for the infant. \u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eA pair of engraved roundels lie at either side of the base of the rose bower; to the left, a crown surrounds three nails, symbolising that in the Christian religion, Christ, the son of God, was a king but also serving as a reminder of his mortality and ultimate death, when he was nailed to a cross by three nails and a crown of thorns was placed upon his head. Pontius Pilate, the Roman Governor of Judaea, placed a sign upon the cross which stated, “Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews”. The roundel to the right contains three crowns and a star, referring to the three kings from the East who would see a new star in the sky and follow it to the stable. They would also come to visit the infant, bearing gifts of gold, silver and myrrh.\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eAt the base of the nativity scene is a cartouche containing the inscription ‘Bethlehem’, the place where the shell was carved and where Mary gave birth to Jesus. Centrally placed below the cartouche is a large pierced roundel containing the image of a passion flower, flanked by two smaller and similarly pierced roundels, interspersed with intricate and finely pierced scrolling foliate designs derived from elements of the passion flower plant. To the lower edge of the shell is a finely carved foliate border.\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eThe language and symbolism of flowers was well known to previous generations.  The rose was commonly used as a symbol for Mary, Jesus’ mother, who was perceived as ‘a rose without thorns’ and also sometimes used as a symbol for Christ himself, as in the German Christmas song “\u003cem\u003eest ist ein ‘Rose’ entsprungen\u003c\/em\u003e”. In medieval times, the rose, particularly the red rose, was used to represent the suffering, or passion, Christ would ultimately endure. In his ‘Divine Comedy’, Dante used the rose to represent God’s love.\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eDuring the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, Christian missionaries in South America discovered and named the passion flower (Passiflora Caerulea).  In the unique structure of these flowers and in the numbers of their various parts, the missionaries saw a reminder of the last days of Jesus, his suffering and his death on the cross.  They interpreted the three stigmas of the flower as representing the nails used in his crucifixion, the five anthers, the wounds he endured and the radial filaments, the crown of thorns. Although there are many species of passion flower, most of the flowers are blue or white, colours which were seen as representing heaven and purity.\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eIn 326 AD, Saint Helen, the mother of Roman Emperor, Constantine the Great, identified the major holy sites of Syria-Palestine.  This identification marked the beginning of the pilgrimage movement and although many conflicts and power shifts over the years interrupted travel, waves of Christian pilgrims visited the Holy Land whenever possible.\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eBy the 11\u003csup\u003eth\u003c\/sup\u003e\u003cspan\u003e \u003c\/span\u003ecentury the pilgrimage movement was fully developed and medieval Christians saw the difficulties and dangers of pilgrimage as a way to atone for their sins and ensure heavenly salvation.  The number of Christian visitors to the Holy Land peaked during the last decades of the nineteenth century and the early years of the twentieth century, prior to the outbreak of the First World War.\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eThe Holy Land was also the birthplace of Christian art and the early images laid the foundation for the great religious paintings of the Italian Renaissance and Christian art thereafter.  From the earliest times, pilgrims often wrote detailed accounts of their travels and brought souvenirs home. The demand for souvenirs became so great that many craftsmen were employed in manufacturing a wide range of stone, lead, wooden and glass objects and some early examples still exist.   The royal houses, churches and religious institutions of Europe amassed large collections of these objects, often presented to them by returning pilgrims.\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eIn later years, mother of pearl objects became the most important and desirable of the pilgrimage souvenirs. Particularly loved by Russians, The Hermitage owns a large collection of crosses, icons and rosaries which were presented to the Imperial family by rich and important people as well as by those from the lower ranks of society on their return from pilgrimage.   The Vatican also holds a superb collection of mother of pearl objects from the Holy Land, dating to the 18\u003csup\u003eth\u003c\/sup\u003e, 19\u003csup\u003eth\u003c\/sup\u003e\u003cspan\u003e \u003c\/span\u003eand 20\u003csup\u003eth\u003c\/sup\u003e\u003cspan\u003e \u003c\/span\u003ecenturies.\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eThis shell was made in Bethlehem during the last decades of the 19\u003csup\u003eth\u003c\/sup\u003e\u003cspan\u003e \u003c\/span\u003ecentury and is a beautiful and fascinating cross cultural item. A large example of the genre, it is in exceptional original and undamaged condition. Skilfully crafted by Moslem workers, the scene depicts a joyous moment in the life of a young Jewish family. The shell would have been purchased by a visiting Christian pilgrim during his tour of the biblical sites of the Holy Land. \u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003ePlease note that we stock a wide selection of pilgrimage shells in our London shop.  Please contact us to arrange a viewing or to request further details of the current selection.\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cem\u003e\u003cstrong\u003eProvenance:\u003c\/strong\u003e\u003c\/em\u003e\u003cstrong\u003e         \u003c\/strong\u003eUK art market\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cem\u003e\u003cstrong\u003eSize:\u003c\/strong\u003e\u003c\/em\u003e                         Height:  22 cms, Width: 21 cms     \u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cstrong\u003e\u003cem\u003eReferences:\u003c\/em\u003e\u003c\/strong\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eVincent Boele, Pilgrim Treasures from  the Hermitage: Byzantium – Jerusalem, New Edition, Lund Humphries 2006                                                                         \u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eThe Collection of the State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg\u003c\/p\u003e","published_at":"2020-08-09T17:36:52+01:00","created_at":"2020-08-09T17:36:50+01:00","vendor":"Joseph Cohen Antiques","type":"Carved Shell","tags":["Sold Archive"],"price":0,"price_min":0,"price_max":0,"available":false,"price_varies":false,"compare_at_price":null,"compare_at_price_min":0,"compare_at_price_max":0,"compare_at_price_varies":false,"variants":[{"id":35686262964374,"title":"Default Title","option1":"Default Title","option2":null,"option3":null,"sku":"","requires_shipping":true,"taxable":true,"featured_image":null,"available":false,"name":"Antique Mother Of Pearl Carved Shell, Nativity Scene, Large Size, Bethlehem, The Holy Land – Late 19th Century","public_title":null,"options":["Default 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large shell is rich in decoration and symbolism and has been exceptionally well carved in high and low relief with engraved panels and intricately pierced ornamentation depicting a moment shortly after the birth of the infant Jesus in a stable in Bethlehem.\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eSomewhat surprisingly, the majority of these shells were crafted by Arab workers in the Holy Land and many of the best carvers were women.  The principal production and trading centres were in Jerusalem and Bethlehem, where shells would be sold to Christians visiting the popular pilgrimage sites who would buy them as mementoes of their travels, gifts for others and as an amulet to protect them from dangers during their journey back home.  Up until the 1950s, when mechanisation was first introduced, this intricate work was done entirely by hand, using only the most basic tools.  The shells were initially sourced from stocks in the Red Sea, which were later supplemented by imported shells from India, South America, New Zealand etc.\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eThis shell has a deeply carved rose finial to the top and the principal image is of a simple stable surrounded by a bower of roses.  Inside the stable are (left to right) the figures of Joseph, Mary, the infant Jesus in a manger, an ox and an ass. A shepherd kneels in worship at the front of the manger, whilst another shepherd stands to one side with his crook.  In the foreground are two lambs which the shepherds have brought as gifts for the infant. \u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eA pair of engraved roundels lie at either side of the base of the rose bower; to the left, a crown surrounds three nails, symbolising that in the Christian religion, Christ, the son of God, was a king but also serving as a reminder of his mortality and ultimate death, when he was nailed to a cross by three nails and a crown of thorns was placed upon his head. Pontius Pilate, the Roman Governor of Judaea, placed a sign upon the cross which stated, “Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews”. The roundel to the right contains three crowns and a star, referring to the three kings from the East who would see a new star in the sky and follow it to the stable. They would also come to visit the infant, bearing gifts of gold, silver and myrrh.\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eAt the base of the nativity scene is a cartouche containing the inscription ‘Bethlehem’, the place where the shell was carved and where Mary gave birth to Jesus. Centrally placed below the cartouche is a large pierced roundel containing the image of a passion flower, flanked by two smaller and similarly pierced roundels, interspersed with intricate and finely pierced scrolling foliate designs derived from elements of the passion flower plant. To the lower edge of the shell is a finely carved foliate border.\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eThe language and symbolism of flowers was well known to previous generations.  The rose was commonly used as a symbol for Mary, Jesus’ mother, who was perceived as ‘a rose without thorns’ and also sometimes used as a symbol for Christ himself, as in the German Christmas song “\u003cem\u003eest ist ein ‘Rose’ entsprungen\u003c\/em\u003e”. In medieval times, the rose, particularly the red rose, was used to represent the suffering, or passion, Christ would ultimately endure. In his ‘Divine Comedy’, Dante used the rose to represent God’s love.\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eDuring the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, Christian missionaries in South America discovered and named the passion flower (Passiflora Caerulea).  In the unique structure of these flowers and in the numbers of their various parts, the missionaries saw a reminder of the last days of Jesus, his suffering and his death on the cross.  They interpreted the three stigmas of the flower as representing the nails used in his crucifixion, the five anthers, the wounds he endured and the radial filaments, the crown of thorns. Although there are many species of passion flower, most of the flowers are blue or white, colours which were seen as representing heaven and purity.\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eIn 326 AD, Saint Helen, the mother of Roman Emperor, Constantine the Great, identified the major holy sites of Syria-Palestine.  This identification marked the beginning of the pilgrimage movement and although many conflicts and power shifts over the years interrupted travel, waves of Christian pilgrims visited the Holy Land whenever possible.\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eBy the 11\u003csup\u003eth\u003c\/sup\u003e\u003cspan\u003e \u003c\/span\u003ecentury the pilgrimage movement was fully developed and medieval Christians saw the difficulties and dangers of pilgrimage as a way to atone for their sins and ensure heavenly salvation.  The number of Christian visitors to the Holy Land peaked during the last decades of the nineteenth century and the early years of the twentieth century, prior to the outbreak of the First World War.\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eThe Holy Land was also the birthplace of Christian art and the early images laid the foundation for the great religious paintings of the Italian Renaissance and Christian art thereafter.  From the earliest times, pilgrims often wrote detailed accounts of their travels and brought souvenirs home. The demand for souvenirs became so great that many craftsmen were employed in manufacturing a wide range of stone, lead, wooden and glass objects and some early examples still exist.   The royal houses, churches and religious institutions of Europe amassed large collections of these objects, often presented to them by returning pilgrims.\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eIn later years, mother of pearl objects became the most important and desirable of the pilgrimage souvenirs. Particularly loved by Russians, The Hermitage owns a large collection of crosses, icons and rosaries which were presented to the Imperial family by rich and important people as well as by those from the lower ranks of society on their return from pilgrimage.   The Vatican also holds a superb collection of mother of pearl objects from the Holy Land, dating to the 18\u003csup\u003eth\u003c\/sup\u003e, 19\u003csup\u003eth\u003c\/sup\u003e\u003cspan\u003e \u003c\/span\u003eand 20\u003csup\u003eth\u003c\/sup\u003e\u003cspan\u003e \u003c\/span\u003ecenturies.\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eThis shell was made in Bethlehem during the last decades of the 19\u003csup\u003eth\u003c\/sup\u003e\u003cspan\u003e \u003c\/span\u003ecentury and is a beautiful and fascinating cross cultural item. A large example of the genre, it is in exceptional original and undamaged condition. Skilfully crafted by Moslem workers, the scene depicts a joyous moment in the life of a young Jewish family. The shell would have been purchased by a visiting Christian pilgrim during his tour of the biblical sites of the Holy Land. \u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003ePlease note that we stock a wide selection of pilgrimage shells in our London shop.  Please contact us to arrange a viewing or to request further details of the current selection.\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cem\u003e\u003cstrong\u003eProvenance:\u003c\/strong\u003e\u003c\/em\u003e\u003cstrong\u003e         \u003c\/strong\u003eUK art market\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cem\u003e\u003cstrong\u003eSize:\u003c\/strong\u003e\u003c\/em\u003e                         Height:  22 cms, Width: 21 cms     \u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cstrong\u003e\u003cem\u003eReferences:\u003c\/em\u003e\u003c\/strong\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eVincent Boele, Pilgrim Treasures from  the Hermitage: Byzantium – Jerusalem, New Edition, Lund Humphries 2006                                                                         \u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003eThe Collection of the State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg\u003c\/p\u003e"}

Antique Mother Of Pearl Carved Shell, Nativity Scene, Large Size, Bethlehem, The Holy Land – Late 19th Century

Product Description

This large shell is rich in decoration and symbolism and has been exceptionally well carved in high and low relief with engraved panels and intricately pierced ornamentation depicting a moment shortly after the birth of the infant Jesus in a stable in Bethlehem.

Somewhat surprisingly, the majority of these shells were crafted by Arab workers in the Holy Land and many of the best carvers were women.  The principal production and trading centres were in Jerusalem and Bethlehem, where shells would be sold to Christians visiting the popular pilgrimage sites who would buy them as mementoes of their travels, gifts for others and as an amulet to protect them from dangers during their journey back home.  Up until the 1950s, when mechanisation was first introduced, this intricate work was done entirely by hand, using only the most basic tools.  The shells were initially sourced from stocks in the Red Sea, which were later supplemented by imported shells from India, South America, New Zealand etc.

This shell has a deeply carved rose finial to the top and the principal image is of a simple stable surrounded by a bower of roses.  Inside the stable are (left to right) the figures of Joseph, Mary, the infant Jesus in a manger, an ox and an ass. A shepherd kneels in worship at the front of the manger, whilst another shepherd stands to one side with his crook.  In the foreground are two lambs which the shepherds have brought as gifts for the infant. 

A pair of engraved roundels lie at either side of the base of the rose bower; to the left, a crown surrounds three nails, symbolising that in the Christian religion, Christ, the son of God, was a king but also serving as a reminder of his mortality and ultimate death, when he was nailed to a cross by three nails and a crown of thorns was placed upon his head. Pontius Pilate, the Roman Governor of Judaea, placed a sign upon the cross which stated, “Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews”. The roundel to the right contains three crowns and a star, referring to the three kings from the East who would see a new star in the sky and follow it to the stable. They would also come to visit the infant, bearing gifts of gold, silver and myrrh.

At the base of the nativity scene is a cartouche containing the inscription ‘Bethlehem’, the place where the shell was carved and where Mary gave birth to Jesus. Centrally placed below the cartouche is a large pierced roundel containing the image of a passion flower, flanked by two smaller and similarly pierced roundels, interspersed with intricate and finely pierced scrolling foliate designs derived from elements of the passion flower plant. To the lower edge of the shell is a finely carved foliate border.

The language and symbolism of flowers was well known to previous generations.  The rose was commonly used as a symbol for Mary, Jesus’ mother, who was perceived as ‘a rose without thorns’ and also sometimes used as a symbol for Christ himself, as in the German Christmas song “est ist ein ‘Rose’ entsprungen”. In medieval times, the rose, particularly the red rose, was used to represent the suffering, or passion, Christ would ultimately endure. In his ‘Divine Comedy’, Dante used the rose to represent God’s love.

During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, Christian missionaries in South America discovered and named the passion flower (Passiflora Caerulea).  In the unique structure of these flowers and in the numbers of their various parts, the missionaries saw a reminder of the last days of Jesus, his suffering and his death on the cross.  They interpreted the three stigmas of the flower as representing the nails used in his crucifixion, the five anthers, the wounds he endured and the radial filaments, the crown of thorns. Although there are many species of passion flower, most of the flowers are blue or white, colours which were seen as representing heaven and purity.

In 326 AD, Saint Helen, the mother of Roman Emperor, Constantine the Great, identified the major holy sites of Syria-Palestine.  This identification marked the beginning of the pilgrimage movement and although many conflicts and power shifts over the years interrupted travel, waves of Christian pilgrims visited the Holy Land whenever possible.

By the 11th century the pilgrimage movement was fully developed and medieval Christians saw the difficulties and dangers of pilgrimage as a way to atone for their sins and ensure heavenly salvation.  The number of Christian visitors to the Holy Land peaked during the last decades of the nineteenth century and the early years of the twentieth century, prior to the outbreak of the First World War.

The Holy Land was also the birthplace of Christian art and the early images laid the foundation for the great religious paintings of the Italian Renaissance and Christian art thereafter.  From the earliest times, pilgrims often wrote detailed accounts of their travels and brought souvenirs home. The demand for souvenirs became so great that many craftsmen were employed in manufacturing a wide range of stone, lead, wooden and glass objects and some early examples still exist.   The royal houses, churches and religious institutions of Europe amassed large collections of these objects, often presented to them by returning pilgrims.

In later years, mother of pearl objects became the most important and desirable of the pilgrimage souvenirs. Particularly loved by Russians, The Hermitage owns a large collection of crosses, icons and rosaries which were presented to the Imperial family by rich and important people as well as by those from the lower ranks of society on their return from pilgrimage.   The Vatican also holds a superb collection of mother of pearl objects from the Holy Land, dating to the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.

This shell was made in Bethlehem during the last decades of the 19th century and is a beautiful and fascinating cross cultural item. A large example of the genre, it is in exceptional original and undamaged condition. Skilfully crafted by Moslem workers, the scene depicts a joyous moment in the life of a young Jewish family. The shell would have been purchased by a visiting Christian pilgrim during his tour of the biblical sites of the Holy Land. 

Please note that we stock a wide selection of pilgrimage shells in our London shop.  Please contact us to arrange a viewing or to request further details of the current selection.

Provenance:         UK art market

Size:                         Height:  22 cms, Width: 21 cms     

References:

Vincent Boele, Pilgrim Treasures from  the Hermitage: Byzantium – Jerusalem, New Edition, Lund Humphries 2006                                                                         

The Collection of the State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg

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Maximum quantity available reached.

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