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Scrimshaw (tooth of a sperm whale)

Estimated value: €. 4,000.00

Rif. K-1

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Author: Fátima Madruga Gomes

Year: 1987.

Collection: Private collection (Italy)


Material: Tooth of a sperm whale of over 100 years

Provenance: Horta, Faial, Azores, Portugal


Height: 15.5 cm

Weight: 300 gr



Scrimshaw is the name given to scrollwork, engravings, and carvings done in bone or ivory. Typically it refers to the handiwork created by whalers made from the byproducts of harvesting marine mammals. It is most commonly made out of the bones and teeth of sperm whales, the baleen of other whales, and the tusks of walruses. It takes the form of elaborate engravings in the form of pictures and lettering on the surface of the bone or tooth, with the engraving highlighted using a pigment, or, less often, small sculptures made from the same material. However the latter really fall into the categories of ivory carving, for all carved teeth and tusks, or bone carving. The making of scrimshaw began on whaling ships between 1745 to 1759 on the Pacific Ocean, and survived until the ban on commercial whaling. The practice survives as a hobby and as a trade for commercial artisans.


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