Bellamy, John Haley (American 1836-1914) Exceptionally rare and important carved box, American, signed with ink on the bottom: 'J.H. BELLAMY MAKER 1876'. The box was carved the year of the American centennial and has patriotic and nautical themes carved on the various surfaces. The top has the carved Seal of the United States. The top has a carved spread wing eagle clutching a flowing banner with the engraved slogan: 'E PLURIBUS UNUM', above an American shield. The back has a carved American shield with a five pointed star. Each side has a crowned mermaid with wings holding a banner with engraved stars. All the carved surfaces have elaborately carved swirling vines, some terminating with flowers. The corners and edges of the various sides have applied wood over the carved panels. All of the side pieces have carved decorative patterns common to all sides. The lid has four applied braces. The interior of the box is plain and unfinished. There are four applied, hairy paw feet. The quality and detail of the carving is exceptional as is the quality of the design elements. (FA-653)
Condition: The box is in excellent condition and has an untouched mellow age patina. There are two condition reports accompanying the box. Each condition report focuses on identifying the signature as period to the box. The first condition report is written by Simon Parkes of Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc. of New York. The second condition report is written by John Powell of Chelsea Restoration Associates, Inc. of New York. Both conservators examined the box in January 2007.
Reference 1: Craig, James A. 'American Eagle The Bold Art & Brash Life of John Haley Bellamy,' Portsmouth Marine Society, No. 2014, 2014, pp. 144-145. This box is illustrated with six photos showing each of the sides as well as the top and bottom in a two page spread. The description compares it to a box created by Bellamy showing his family crest which is very similar to this box. This similar box is described and illustrated in three photos found on pages 167 and 168.
Reference 2: Smith, Yvonne Brault, 'John Haley Bellamy Carver of Eagles,' Hampton, NH: Peter E. Randall, (Portsmouth Marine Society), 1982. Bellamy's masterpiece was the eagle figurehead carving for the American naval vessel, 'Lancaster'. This eagle was begun the year following the box described above. There are several illustrations of Bellamy's works where one can see stylistic similarities of his works between pages 65 and 92. Page 89 illustrates a backpaper from a frame bearing Bellamy's signature and script. This frame is in the collection in the Museum of Our National Heritage in Lexington, Massachusetts. Accompanying the box is a photograph of another Bellamy script signature which appears on the interior of his toolbox which is in the collection of the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts.
Exhibit: Bold and Brash: The Art of John Haley Bellamy was held at the Portsmouth Historical Society in Portsmouth New Hamshire April 1 - October 3 2014. This box was included in this exhibit.
Note 1: Accompanying the box are two reports from conservators indicating that the J H Bellamy signature is authentic. The first report is dated 1/15/2007 and was written by John Powell of Chelsea Restoration Associates, New York. The second report dated 1/16/2007 was written by Simon Parkes of Simon Parkes Restoration, New York.
Exhibition: An exhibition titled: Bold and Brash: The Art of John Haley Bellamy' was presented during the spring, summer and fall of 2014 at the Portsmouth Historical Society. This major retrospective featured many of Bellamy's masterpieces as well as a general view of the range of work he produced. The box described above was included in the exhibition.
Dimensions: 19 1/2 x 13 x 8 1/4.