Eustis Estate

Sailor’s Valentine

Likely Barbados; 1840—60; Shell, wood; Gift of Constance McCann Betts, Helena Woolworth Guest and Frasier W. McCann; 1942.2064.

Where Sleeper acquired this so-called “Sailor’s Valentine” is unknown, but its choice reflects his attraction to Victorian folk art. A sentimental item that a sailor might bring home to a loved one, these shellcraft compositions were typically octagonal, glass-fronted, and hinged; primarily sold on the island of Barbados, the form flourished between 1830 and 1890. Sleeper gave a similar work to Piatt Andrew when he decorated Red Roof’s Pewter Room, and later summoned the valentine’s shape in his own Octagon Room.