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Scrimshaw on a dolphin's jawbone depicting a woman's profile

Date: 1860s
Overall: 405 x 65 x 30 mm, 0.08 kg
Medium: Dolphin jaw, ink
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Scrimshaw dolphin jaw
Object No: 00032473

User Terms

    This dolphin jaw depicts the profile of a woman wearing a round low-neck dress. She is framed by a garland of olive leaves. Sailors carved scrimshaw onboard whaling expeditions to help fill the long hours at sea. They commonly depicted images of women copied from illustrations in fashion magazines. Due to age of this piece, the dolphin's jaw has considerably dried out and a number of the teeth have been lost.

    SignificanceThis piece is representative of the use of dolphin jaws in 19th century scrimshaw.
    HistoryAmerican scrimshaw can trace its early roots back to the 19th century whaling industry and was a craft practiced by whale hunters with plenty of spare time on their hands. Scrimshanders would engrave, carve, inlay or assemble bone from marine mammals, including whale bone, teeth and baleen, walrus tusks and shell. Pieces they made range from functional everyday objects to decorative folk art depicting images of women, whaling scenes or memories of home.

    The basic scrimshaw designs etched on whale teeth and jaws were often copied from illustrations in books or magazines. The engraved lines would then be filled with ink, lamp black or other pigments to make the image stand out.

    Additional Titles

    Web title: Scrimshaw depicting a woman's profile

    Primary title: Scrimshaw on a dolphin's jawbone depicting a woman's profile

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