Way back in the 18th century, sailors used wooden chests called ’Caixa de mariners’ or ‘seafarer’s boxes’ to store their most treasured possessions when they went on long voyages from Mallorca to America.
This beautifully decorated chest is the Mallorca Maritime Museum’s ‘piece of the month’ and it belongs to an architect called Toni Juncosa, but unfortunately nothing is known about its original owner.
A ‘seafarer’s box’ usually contained several changes of clothes, shoes and caps, along with a set of sheets, blankets and pillows.
They were reportedly made in specialist workshops near ports and some may have been painted there, but many of the mythological, biblical and everyday themes that decorate these beautiful antiques, are thought to have been painted by the sailors themselves when they had some spare time during their voyage. They were very practical too, conditions onboard ship were extremely cramped back then and the sailors would sit on their boxes during meal breaks.
The artwork is truly stunning, so it’s no surprise that 'seafarer's boxes' are extremely valuable and highly sought after by collectors all over the world.
The ‘Caixa de Mariner’ that belongs to Toni Juncosa is decorated with the biblical myth of Judith. Some say it depicts the power of women over men and that punishment awaits those who contravene it, while others believe the picture serves as a reminder to sailors not to be unfaithful to their wives.
According to the Mallorca Maritime Museum Facebook page, by the end of the 19th century the boxes were used for other purposes, such as transporting sugar from Cuba.
The Mallorca Maritime Museum in Puerto Soller is open from 10:00-15:00 on Saturday and 10.00 until 14.00 on Sunday and you can find out more about the seafarer’s boxes by logging on to: https://www.facebook.com/MuseuMaritimMallorca/.