Ship in a bottle
Nantucket History & People

Ship in a Bottle, Magic or Witchcraft?

Commonly asked questions and misunderstandings about antiques… and the odd or end fascinating bit!

Ship in a bottle

We have been making models of ships for thousands of years…wonderful examples have survived from ancient Egypt. Miniature models of a ship in a bottle have fascinated us since the 18th, perhaps even 17th Centuries. What magic or witchcraft lies here? How did they get that little model inside that impossible bottle?

Well, traditionally the crafter would construct the model, then collapse all the spars and rigging flat to the deck; once slid inside the bottle the rigging would then be raised by pulling on a line. Sounds simple… until you try it.

A modern alternative method fashions all the parts, drops them into the bottle, then builds the ship in a bottle from scratch in situ with specially designed (often homemade) long wire tools. Sure, that simplifies things, yeah.

A Ship in a bottle remains forever popular with marine antiques and folk art collectors. The most desirable ones often feature multiple ships, port scenes and landscapes, molded oceans and painted backgrounds. Others may have elaborate three dimensional whimsical puzzle constructions instead of ships. We always want to see the largest possible model inside a bottle with an impossibly smaller neck. Magic or witchcraft indeed!

Find Nantucket Hotels at Antiques Snippets are provided by Jack Fritsch, proprietor of the Antiques Depot at 2 S. Beach Street (across from the Nantucket Yacht Club)

Articles by Date from 2012