19th Century Carved Coconut

19th Century Carved Coconut

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Paris, France
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About this item

Carved coconuts were originally brought by navigators, explorers who would gather them along their trips in the islands or visiting the prisons. They were exposed in "cabinets de curiosites."

The oldest ones are recognizable to their smooth decor.
Sometimes decorated with a silver frame or enamel ornaments, they were considered as precious objects, a bit like jewelry.
Through time, engravings became more and more sophisticated, coconuts were finely carved with charming animated scenes, mythological characters and personalities of the time.

Some of these nuts were made by the sailors themselves, during boat trips to kill their free time with raw material they could find at arm's length (as coconut fleets). They were brought back to the family or the loved one who were awaiting them patiently. They are recognizable to the engravings: Love sentences, marriage proposal, heart on fire or pierced by arrows, doves, monograms of the two lovers.

There are also coconuts which were carved by French prisoners during the Napoleonic Wars. (In the bay South of England: Southampton, Plymouth and Weymouth).
These coconuts are recognizable to their "military" engravings: Napoleon portraits, trophies and battle scenes.

Also there were French manufactures in Dieppe where coconuts were crafted with more sophisticated tools for more precision: The fineness of the carving and originality of designs identify the source.

The front of the nut is naturally pierced with three holes that were used to represent an animal figure (two eyes and a mouth) or a caricature. Eyes were made of glass beads, mother-of-pearl or ivory and inserted into two of the three holes.

The purpose of the coconut was either decorative or utilitarian:
Whole nuts were used as powder horns: They have a silver nozzle and two lateral growths which allowed to attach a strap.
Others are in the form of boxes: Tobacco jars, snuff boxes and jewelry boxes.
Smaller ones were used as pill boxes, snuff boxes and dice cases
When divided into two (in height or width) coconuts become bowls, cups, hunting cups or simply decorative objects.

Additional dimensions information:

Diameter 11 cm


W11.0 x H14.0 x D11.0 cm



Wear condition


Date of manufacture


Place of origin





19th Century


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Seller is VAT registered


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