A Beautiful Early 20thC Specimen of Antipatharia Black Coral

Origin: English with the Specimen Indo-Pacific/Atlantic
Period: Early Twentieth Century
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1900-1920
Height: 26.25 inches
Base Diameter: 2.75 inches (all at extremities)

The preserved flexible skeleton specimen of Antipatharia black coral, mounted on a turned ebonised plinth survives from the first quarter of the twentieth century.

The specimen and ebonised wooden base are both in good to very good order. The specimen itself is good given its fragility and age with only small losses. The base has expected wear.

The entire order of black corals (Antipatharia) has been listed under Appendix II of CITES since 1981 and may require re-export permits. If you are interested and are not in the UK please check domestic legislation and import controls for your region before buying.

Antipathes, meaning "against suffering", are corals that have been harvested for centuries to create charms and medicines, believed to have the power to ward off evil and injury. Antipathes species belong to the order Antipatharia, the black corals, which are named for their black or brownish flexible skeleton. They possess distinctive tiny spines on the surface of the skeleton, and thus are sometimes also referred to as “little thorn corals”/ Antipathes corals exhibit very diverse morphology; colonies can be sparsely or densely branched or bushy, with branches of varying length, arranged irregularly or with bilateral symmetry. Species also differ in their colour; the living tissue may be black, red, orange, brown, green, yellow, or white. Each polyp possess six, non-retractable tentacles that are armed with stinging cells. Relatively little is known about the life cycle and reproduction of black corals. This is partly due to the depths which they inhabit, making it difficult to undertake research. An Antipathes colony may live for over 70 years.

During the nineteenth century pieces of coral were collected by those of a curious nature and kept in cabinets or under glass domes. Specimens of black coral are scarce.

This specimen is scarce and very decorative; so much so it can change a shelf or tabletop in a flash from dull to delicious.