Item number: 4938
An Early 19th Century Coco de Mer, ‘Lodoicea Maldivica’
Ex English Private Collection
When first encountered by European sailors floating in the sea with no known origin and quite unlike anything else seen in nature these unique natural works of art swiftly achieved high status. The largest and heaviest seed in the world, it was widely accepted prior to third quarter of the 18th century that they grew in a mythical world believed to exist beneath the sea, attesting ancient mariners tales of mermaids and enormous underwater creatures which inhabited this unknown realm.
The striking resemblance of these unique, giant double coconuts to the naked female pelvic region was particularly powerful as can be seen in many early examples which were collected by sailors, who would often carefully smooth and polish the surfaces of the seed, leaving specific areas untouched and retaining the natural fibrous surface hair which served to further increase the erotic similarity.
The combination of their rarity, unusual appearance and the belief that they acted as a potent aphrodisiac led them to become extremely valuable, greatly desired by the nobility of the time and later becoming a much coveted addition to any serious ‘Wunderkammer’ or ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’.
Today, the Coco de mer’s source of origin, a rare and protected species of palm tree endemic to only two small islands in the Seychelles, is a National Park and World Heritage site, with collection of the seeds which take many years to form, strictly regulated and controlled.
A particularly pleasing and rare, large early specimen, with a fine, dark patina.
Height: 35cm, Width: 30cm, Depth: 16cm