• Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size
19th century Leangle ClubStunning Maprik Yam Mask

New Caledonia French convict art; Pearl Shell

New Caledonia French convict art; Pearl Shell

Ask a question about this item

French convict art; Engraved mother of pearl shell, New Caledonia:

This engraved mother of pearl is a fine example of this French Convict art  period. It highlights Colonel Gally Passebose. Passebose, Commandant Militaire died 3rd July 1878 when trying to suppress a native insurrection in Ourail and Boularpar regions of New Caledonia. Passebose was the youngest Colonel in the French service and was soon to return to France to become a General before his untimely death. Interestingly he had risen to the status of Colonel from the rank of a common soldier

On one side of the shell are two circular medallions. The top scene depicting the possible battle that Passebose encountered with the local insurrection and the bottom medallion a portrait of Passebose in military uniform. At the side of the 2 main medallions are 2 smaller circular medallions depicting refined ladies in contrast to the image of the insurrection. Floral patterns wrap around the shell and medallions, drawing your eye to the key images.

On the other side of this piece is an engraved scene of an angel with broken ankle and wrist chains. The angel  is holding a torch, symbolising the light in the dark to all who need it. The angel is standing on top of a head of a man who skull represents the common  world. His moustache transforms into wild roses that wrap around the image. Dr Prue Ahrens from Griffiths University Australia, a leading world expert in this art describes the spiritual or religious iconography used by the convicts, “Pious scenes which promised redemption were popular during this time. Scenes offered a spiritual escape from their current incarcerated position." There is a signature on the bottom of this image.

SIZE: 25cm X17cm

See more detailed article on New Caledonia French convict art,



1879 '[No heading].', The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), 10 February, p. 7, viewed 17 November, 2013, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page1432205

Ahrens, P. and Lagarde, L. (2010), Convict Art and Craft in Colonial New Caledonia. History Compass, 8: 1243–1256. doi: 10.1111/j.1478-0542.2010.00738

Ahrens, P. Oceanic Art Society, Volume 18, Issue 5, October 2013, p4-5






















































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































Last Updated: Sunday, 18 February 2018 18:12