A Fine Pair of Large Dome Cased c.1870s Preserved Acropora Coral Specimens

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Origin: English with the Specimens Indo-Pacific/Atlantic
Period: Mid/Late Nineteenth Century
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1860-80
Dome One: Height: 14.5 inches, Diameter: 13 inches (the base)
Dome Two: Height: 13.5 inches, Diameter: 14 inches (the base)

The pair of large and imposing Victorian preserved coral displays, of slightly differing sizes, showing the twig-like tubular appressed clustered Acropora coral specimens populated by an array of seashells, seahorses, dragonflies, butterflies, sea anemone and weeds both beneath their original compressed glass circular domes on circular ebonised plinths.

The glass domes and ebonised wooden bases are in superb order and are original to the coral displays. One stands on bun feet though the other does not. The specimens themselves are in relatively good condition given their brittleness and fragility and age. To each coral section there are the odd tiny parts lacking. Both examples also have one slightly larger piece, which has detached but rests happily in place without any real detriment to their appearance. Overall they couldn’t really be expected to be in any better order, the specimens and the domes themselves are of the highest quality at the time.

Acropora is a genus of small polyp stony coral in the Phylum Cnidaria. Some of its species are known as table coral, elkhorn coral and staghorn coral. Acropora displays an amazing array of forms and, with over 135 species, it is the most species rich hard coral genus and it is one of the major reef corals responsible for building the immense calcium carbonate substructure that supports the thin living skin of a reef.

Acropora is most common in shallow reef environments with bright light and moderate to high water motion. Environmental destruction has led to a dwindling of populations of Acropora, along with other coral species. The 3-D structure of this coral provides a rich habitat for a wide range of other reef creatures including crabs, brittle stars and fish which is reflected in their decoration with other specimens.

From the 149 species of acropora this particular sub -pecies is probably listed CITES, 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.

During the nineteenth century pieces of coral that were too large for the cabinet were sometimes placed under glass domes like this one to enhance their decorative appeal and to prevent them from gathering dust. Sometimes shells and other adornments were added as we see here.

The other specimens that are present here are charming and slightly unusual in that some of them are not species associated with sea life such as a large white butterfly (with some loss to its wings), a dragonfly and several smaller butterflies native to Britain like the peacock. There are several seahorses, which prove charming, and many examples of Victorian seashell finds that litter the bases of the coral specimens. The wholes prove to be a showcase of British natural history with an exotic twist in the form of the coral itself.

Large for their type, undeniably beautiful and wonderfully interesting.

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