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HOME : Decorative Arts : Masterpieces : Scrimshaw ivory
Scrimshaw ivory - K.1
Origin: New England
Circa: 1800 BC to 1900 AD
Dimensions: 9" (22.9cm) high x 3" (7.6cm) wide
Collection: Erotic Art
Medium: Scrimshaw
Condition: Very Fine

Additional Information: F.

Location: Great Britain
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This is a highly elaborate artefact traditionally known as Scrimshaw. 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 such as 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. On one side of this remarkable object the artist engraved a feminine figure lifting her clothing and showing her nudity. On the opposite side we can observe a Victorian erotic scene. This scrimshaw is a rare example due to its opulent polychromy. This piece can also be considered an important documentation of the fashion habits of the time. - (K.1)


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