Still Life with Shells


Joseph Biays Ord (American, 1805–1865)


ca. 1840


Oil on canvas


18 x 24 inches


Purchase with funds from the Margaret and Terry Stent Endowment for the Acquisition of American Art, 2013.8

Accession #


On View

On View - Stent Family Wing, Level 3, Gallery 307

This serene painting of exotic seashells is particularly unusual for early American art in both subject and presentation. Shells were rarely featured outside of scientific illustration. Joseph Biays Ord’s choice of subject may reflect the new fashion for shell collecting, and he skillfully renders each specimen with scientific precision. By arranging the shells clustered on a flat surface, as if fruit arranged on a table top, Ord plays on still-life convention. However, he arranges them inexplicably along a river’s edge—a decidedly unconventional setting for Atlantic seashells.

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