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    Sale 1959

    Important American Furniture, Folk Art, Prints And Decoys

    17 - 18 January 2008, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 384

    A SCRIMSHAW WHALE TOOTH

    AMERICAN, CIRCA 1831

    Price Realised  

    A SCRIMSHAW WHALE TOOTH
    American, circa 1831
    Engraved with a portrait of John Adams and inscribed John Adams/Patriarch of Pitcairns Island
    6 in. high


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    A highly detailed example, this scrimshaw tooth is an extremely rare in that it can be traced to a particular engraving. Based on a portrait of John Adams (1768?-1829), published as an engraving in 1831, the tooth commemorates the infamous mutineer who had been living on Pitcairn Islands since 1790. As the last surviving mutineer of the HMS Bounty, Adams was discovered by Captain Mayhew Folger in 1808, whereupon he was granted amnesty for the mutiny.

    While the story of the Bounty was familiar to most whalers of the 19th century, this scrimshaw tooth provides an insight into popular opinion of Adams. Referred to as the "patriarch" of the Pitcairn Islands in the inscription, the artist possibly expresses his admiration for Adams. In addition, the angel engraved above Adams' head is a probable reference to Adams' conversion to Christianity following years of alcoholism, illness and murder during the first years of the settlement of the Pitcairn Islands.

    Special Notice

    Prospective purchasers are advised that several countries prohibit the importation of property containing materials from endangered species, including but not limited to coral, ivory and tortoiseshell. Accordingly, prospective purchasers should familiarize themselves with relevant customs regulations prior to bidding if they intend to import this lot into another country.


    Literature

    Charles H. Carpenter, Jr. and Mary Grace Carpenter The Decorative Arts and Crafts of Nantucket (New York, 1987) figs. 162, p. 173.