Scrimshaw Sperm Whale Tooth, mid-20th Century

Description
This large sperm whale tooth has a satyr-like male figure with a horned mask posed in two scenes on obverse and reverse in a sexual embrace with a full-bodied maenad, or mythological female figure associated with the Roman god Bacchus. The subjects of this tooth, along with their shading and poses, argue for a modern carver, who worked freehand. In the 19th century Victorian period, such a tooth would have offended contemporary sensibilities; as a consequence, authentic erotic scrimshaw of the period is exceedingly rare.
Location
Currently not on view
date made
mid 20th century
Physical Description
whale tooth (overall material)
scrimshaw (overall production method/technique)
Measurements
overall: 5 3/4 in x 3 in x 1 3/4 in; 14.605 cm x 7.62 cm x 4.445 cm
ID Number
1978.0052.29
accession number
1978.0052
catalog number
1978.52.29
Credit Line
Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Wilbur J. Gould
See more items in
Work and Industry: Maritime
Cultures & Communities
Scrimshaw
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

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