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Cachalot, Ou Baleine Masle / Baleine Femelle

Date: 1785
485 x 565 mm, 0.277 kg
Medium: Ink on paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Print
Object No: 00019690
Place Manufactured:France
Related Place:Labrador,

User Terms

    An illustration from 'Superstitions Orientales. Des Erreurs et des Superstitions des principaux peuples de L'Orient. De Leurs Moeurs, de Leurs usages et de Leur Legislation, Ouvrage orne de plusieurs Gravures en Taille-douce.' ('Superstitions Orientales. Errors and superstitions of the leading nations of the East.Their morals, their customs and their laws. Book is decorated with engravings and many intaglio.') Edited by Poncelin de La Roche-Tilhac, Paris.

    This print is by engraver Pierre Nicholas Ransonnette (1745 - 1810) and depicts a male and female whale. The image of the male whale is titled 'Cachalot, ou baleine masle' [Sperm whale, or the male whale]. The image of the female whale is titled 'Baleine femelle' [Female whale]. The male whale has two two forelegs and two spouts. The female whale is depicted with a row of breasts. Men are flensing blubber from the female whale and placing it in barrels to the sound of a bagpipe.Based on these pipes, It is likely these are Basque whalers.

    SignificanceDespite the anatomic inaccuracies of the whales in this image, its appeal was still widespread in showing readers a dramatic industry far from its borders.
    The actual technical aspects of the flensing process as shown here is fairly true however. Noted is the pipe player who accompanies the whalers as they work.
    HistoryAlthough this engraving dates from a publication from 1785, it is possible that the image refers to the early Basque whaling activities from the 17th century. At this time the Basques were the predominant whalers from Europe and had established whaling works across the Atlantic at Labrador in the Newfoundland region of Canada.

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