Scrimshaw Sperm Whale Tooth, mid-19th Century


The obverse of this sperm whale tooth is carved with a freehand drawing of a three masted ship sailing from right to left. All sails are set and filled with wind, as the ship moves over the sea. The carving is deep, intricate and highly detailed, showing confidence and experience on the part of the artist. The reverse depicts a freehand drawing of the bust of a young woman in a fancy dress. She has large hoop earrings and an elaborate hat decorated with flowers. The portrait is surrounded by an oval frame. Normally, scrimshaw carving was infilled with lamp black, which made the etched lines stand out. On this tooth, however, the artist chose to infill with a light red or orange color, which has faded with time. This results in very faint lines that do not showcase the artist's obvious talent.

Location: Currently not on view

See more items in: Work and Industry: Maritime, Cultures & Communities, Scrimshaw


Exhibition Location:

Credit Line: From the collection of Dr. and Mrs. Wilbur J. Gould

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: 1978.0052.32Accession Number: 1978.0052Catalog Number: 1978.52.32

Object Name: tooth, whalescrimshaw - toothscrimshaw tooth, whale

Physical Description: scrimshaw (overall production method/technique)whale tooth (overall material)Measurements: overall: 4 3/4 in x 2 in x 1 3/8 in; 12.065 cm x 5.08 cm x 3.4925 cm


Record Id: nmah_309407

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