Nautical Sextant
Folk Art Painted Case
Identified Maker and Owner 

Ca. 3rd quarter, 19th century.

A sextant is used to determine latitude and longitude while at sea by measuring the angle between the horizon and a celestial body such as the sun, the moon, or a star.

The wooden case gives us much information. It bears inside the label of DUREN and COSTIGAN, New York City, the makers of the sextant. The case was painted for (or by) Walter Norton Avery (1821-1900) who was the owner of the ship (a schooner) and probably its captain as well. Avery, a resident of New Haven, CT, owned at least two ships: the “Ella H. Barnes” and the “Belle”. It is likely that one of these ships is that illustrated.

The sextant is in superb condition, yet what really elevates it is the folk art painted case. Very dry, patinated surface showing the ship and/or captain’s name above an illustration of his ship.

Case max dimensions about 14 5/8 inches long x 13 wide. Wood loss just below and to the left of the ‘W’ in Walter, and the bottom edge of the lower front. A remarkable survivor given its shipboard use. Provenance includes Stephen-Douglas; private NH collection.   .