Scrimshaw Sperm Whale’s ToothScrimshaw Domestic Scene on Sperm Whale’s Tooth, 19th Century

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Description
The crews of whale ships had more leisure time than other sailors, since their voyages could last up to four years in length. They also had larger crews than other types of ships, due to the nature of their work. During long hours on watch or lonely hours off duty, many sailors’ thoughts naturally turned to home. This sperm whale tooth is elaborately carved with a domestic scene from a wealthy home. An oriental carpet covers the floor, on which a well-dressed young couple sits on either side of an elaborately-carved table. The portrait of domestic bliss is completed by a small boy at his mother’s side with his hand across her lap. An ornately decorated column holds up rich drapes of exotic fabrics, and the whole tranquil and idealized image is surrounded by a floral frame like a painted picture on the wall. Not many sailors left such a scene behind when they went to sea nor had such a wealthy home scene to return to after a long voyage.
Location
Currently not on view
Physical Description
scrimshaw (overall production method/technique)
Measurements
overall: 5 1/2 in x 2 3/8 in x 1 in; 13.97 cm x 6.0325 cm x 2.54 cm
ID Number
DL.374488
catalog number
374488
accession number
136263
Credit Line
Gift of Frederic A. Delano
subject
Whaling
See more items in
Work and Industry: Maritime
Cultures & Communities
Art
Scrimshaw
Transportation
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

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