Scrimshaw Sperm Whale Tooth, mid-20th Century

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.
Currently not on view
Object Name
scrimshaw tooth, whale
date made
mid 20th century
Physical Description
whale tooth (overall material)
scrimshaw (overall production method/technique)
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
accession number
catalog number
Cultures & Communities
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Work and Industry: Maritime
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Wilbur J. Gould
Additional Media

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