An Extraordinary 19th Century Photograph Album in the Form of a Hand Carved Ship


Origin: Tyrolean
Period: 19th Century
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1870
Height: 31 inches
Width: 18 inches
Depth: 6 inches

The large hand carved ship amongst waves, and sitting on rockers, having a hand painted image of a Tyrolean view, in place of the sails, and opening to reveal various portrait windows within. This is an extremely unusual photograph album and one that is probably unique. The ship rocks gently back and forth as if it is at sea, making this a highly unusual item both wonderfully decorative and functional, whilst also providing a spectacular conversation piece to its owner.

There is some chipping to the wood and part of the hand painted image is missing, but overall, the remarkable visual impact the piece has remained wholly intact. The hand painted view opens to reveal a further painted image of a boating scene in a shallow river, meandering through a large town with each of the ten windows having various slots, most measuring 5x4 inches.

The Tyrol is a geographic region in Europe's Alps and Dolomite Mountains. Part of the Tyrol is in Austria and part is in Italy with the North Tyrol in Austria, sandwiched between Germany and Italy.

This wonderful example is certainly an early photograph album as the oldest albums date to around 1860. Many of these early albums were made of cloth or embossed leather, with numerous adornments, such as painted insets, as we see in this example, porcelain knobs, brass and gold latches. This album would have housed either tintypes or albumen photographs.  Each window is of a very heavy card stock with a thin paper backing with the front cut out just to the image area allowing one to view the photograph.  This style of album would remain popular into the next century.

One could not hope to see a more original or early example of photographic album, presented in such astonishing fashion.

If a piece could tell a story, surely this piece would be it.