An Eskimo Excavated Sculpture of a Whale
A Sperm Whale Interpretation?
This streamline carving a whale, perhaps a sperm whale, has the most beautiful form and surface patina. The elegant lines suggest a sperm whale with the high, angular head. This item was most likely excavated (the collection history is lost) in the Arctic zone and can be attributed to the broad group of Eskimo.
The whale form rests on the surface for its front half and the back half lifts up towards the tail. The overall length is 11.75″, at its widest it’s 2.75″. There is a ridge that runs along the top from front to back with wonderful curvaceous resolution with the head and tail. The underside has been carved out from the center leading to a rim that runs the boundary of the edge that is visible only from the underside. The form widens to its thickest point at the center of its length. The bulging belly looks very much like the belly of a whale as it then tapers to the tail.
The surface is smooth and well worn. The colors are beautiful and transition from warm golden honey to a dark bronze. The porous quality of bone is apparent all over the sculpture, but is particularly readable on the undersurface. Small cracks can be seen, but none go all the way through or across.
Fossilized Bone or Not?
The weight of the object is unusually heavy for bone. It’s possible that this is fossilized or partially fossilized bone which would account for the heaviness. Fossilization of bone replaces the porous bone with minerals. The presence of bone holes suggests that this is not fossilized, since these pores would be filled with minerals if it had become fossilized. There is the possibility that it is partially fossilized.
This sculpture came out of a private Santa Fe collection, where it has been for a long time. It is available for sale with more information on my Collection page. I welcome visitors into my gallery at 28 Burro Alley in Santa Fe, NM for a closer look.