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Item Details

Lot #76
DepartmentScrimshaw
Sold For$47,500.00(hammer price)
 $57,000.00(price including buyer's premium)
Last UpdatedAugust 25, 2018

Description

RARE AND IMPORTANT SCRIMSHAW WHALE'S TOOTH BY JAMES ADOLPHUS BUTE, CREW MEMBER ON CHARLES DARWIN'S EXPEDITION Second Quarter of the 19th Century
Engraved during the voyage of Charles Darwin aboard the H.M.S. Beagle. Both sides depict scenes from the expedition. Obverse with vignette of the Beagle onshore for repairs. Vignette contained within an oak leaf garland. Globe marked H.B.M. Sloop Beagle" below scene. ("H.B.M." refers to "Her Britannic Majesty".) Inscribed below globe "Laid on Shore at Santa Cruz. Eastn Patagonia, to repair her Fore foot, in April 1834". Signed lower right of scene "J.A. Bute". Reverse with vignette of three boats being hauled ashore by many figures. Vignette contained within a rectangular frame with fan designs at corners and a rising sun design at top. Inscribed in a banner below frame "Tracking the Boats of H.M.S. Beagle up the River Santa Cruz Eastn Patagonia". Signed lower right of frame "J.A. Bute". Length 8". Includes custom display case.

Provenance:
Descended in the Thompson family of England and South Africa.

Hyland Granby Antiques.


According to the Dictionary of Scrimshaw Artists by Stuart M. Frank (Mystic, Ct.: Mystic Seaport Museum, 1991) p. 24, Englishman James Adolphus Bute was born around 1799 and joined the Royal Navy around 1819. There was great crossover of personnel between whaling and naval service in England, much more so than in the United States, and Bute may have been introduced to scrimshaw during a whaling voyage in between stints on naval vessels. "The Journal of Syms Covington", assistant to Darwin on his second voyage aboard the Beagle, December 1831-September 1836, records James Bute as a crew member, one of six crew members listed as a Royal Marine.

Published accounts of the voyage note that in early April 1834, the
Beagle was laid on shore for repair in an estuary of the Rio Santa Cruz, which opens to the Atlantic 217 miles north of the tip of South America. While the repairs were being made, Darwin and others explored further upriver, with the men having to haul the three boats they took with them against the river's current for most of the journey. These two events are illustrated on this tooth. Conrad Martens, the official artist onboard the Beagle, also captured these events in two drawings that mirror the images on the tooth; both of Martens's illustrations can be seen in Darwin and the Beagle by Alan Moorehead (N.Y.: Harper & Row, 1969). Given the similarities between Bute's and Martens's work, it is possible Bute was influenced by or collaborated with the artist in creating his pieces of scrimshaw.

A scrimshaw tooth with almost identical characteristics to this example, also attributed to James Bute while he was onboard the
Beagle in 1834, is in the collection of the Western Australia Museum in Perth.

This tooth was treated for stains and re-inked by sculpture conservationist Jean D. Portell of Brooklyn, New York. Extensive records and photographs of Portell's examination and treatment are included. Research material and provenance statement also included.

The Kobacker Collection.

"

Condition

Minor age cracks at base.
This item will not be shipped internationally without a CITES permit. Obtaining CITES and any other necessary permits is the obligation of the buyer.

The description of the item above may not be the final version used in the catalog. The descriptions are as yet unedited and may contain mistakes. The description, estimates and photos could all be wrong. In rare cases they may not end up in this sale. Once the items have received their lot number the descriptions will have been changed if needed.

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