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Scrimshaw depicting a woman

Date: 1800-1900
Overall: 535 x 150 x 50 mm, 0.5 kg
Medium: Whale jaw, ink
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Scrimshaw whale jaw
Object No: 00032477

User Terms

    This Pilot whale jaw depicts a naked woman wrapped in a large piece of fabric, surrounded by a decorative border of foliage. The scrimshander who created this piece has left the teeth of the whale all remaining on the jaw. Images of woman are commonly seen on scrimshaw art and whalers often depicted them in erotic or risqué poses.
    SignificanceThis jaw represents the depiction of provocative women on 19th century scrimshaw.
    HistoryAmerican scrimshaw can trace its roots back to the 18th century whaling industry and was a folk art practiced by whalers with plenty of spare time on their hands. It is one of a handful of American crafts that has maintained a presence in contemporary art practices.

    The average whaling expedition lasted anywhere from three to five years. This could bring about unbearable boredom and loneliness for the sailors. Whalers would fill their long hours by crafting presents for their loved ones back home. They carved designs into whale teeth and bone reflecting scenes of everyday life afloat or their memories of home.

    Pilot whales are related to Dolphins and can be found in all the worlds’ oceans. They were caught by sailors as a source of fresh food and their jaws used in scrimshaw.

    Additional Titles

    Web title: Scrimshaw depicting provocative woman

    Primary title: Scrimshaw depicting a woman

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