Christie’s is holding an Americana week starting January 21. This includes a day for Important American Folk Art, Furniture, and Decorative Arts (January 22).
One of the great highlights of that sale is a highly decorated scrimshaw whale tooth which conveys both the adventure and loneliness of life aboard a 19th century whaling ship, the Superior from New York.
As noted by engravings on the tooth, the scrimshander was a crewmember aboard the Superior.
Among the finely-detailed drawings on the tooth are the Superior with her three masts, an American eagle and banner inscribed with the word Liberty, and a design of intertwined hearts and roses with the dedication: Amelia/ What are the riches of the world without thee/ When this you see, think of me”.
At the base of the tooth, an image of a massive whale’s tail upending a boat full of men (reminiscent of Moby Dick) is flanked by the mottoes “In God We Trust” and “Bold Yankee Whalemen”.
The attribution to the whaleship Superior is significant; in 1848, it was the first American ship to venture into the Bering Strait to hunt bowhead whales, effectively opening a new chapter in whaling that brought over 250 hunting ships to the area within three years.
In September a whale’s tooth carved on the Beagle, aboard which Darwin was transported to the Galapagos where he conceived of the idea of evolution by natural selection, sold for $67,340.
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