Polychrome Scrimshaw Whale Tooth

Description
Even whalemen with little or no artistic talent could carve highly detailed scenes, through use of the pinprick technique. In this method, a picture was cut from a contemporary magazine and then pasted or dampened to stick to the polished surface of a sperm whale's tooth. A sharp pin was then pushed through the lines of the image, which was then removed. This left lines of dots; when these were connected with engraved lines, they formed a copy of the original picture. Most commonly, lamp black (soot) was then rubbed into the engraved lines to make them stand out from the background of the tooth, although colored pigments like those on this tooth also could be applied for variety. The high fashion of this lady's garments bracket a date just a few years after the end of the Civil War.
Date made
1865 - 1869
Physical Description
scrimshaw (overall production method/technique)
bone (overall material)
pinprick technique (overall production method/technique)
Measurements
overall: 6 3/4 in x 3 1/2 in x 2 5/16 in; 17.145 cm x 8.89 cm x 5.9055 cm
ID Number
DL*374502
catalog number
374502
accession number
136263
Credit Line
Gift of Frederic A. Delano
subject
Whaling
related event
Civil War and Reconstruction
See more items in
Work and Industry: Maritime
Work
Cultures & Communities
Industry & Manufacturing
Art
Natural Resources
On the Water exhibit
Transportation
Exhibition
On the Water
Exhibition Location
National Museum of American History
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

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