Mid-19th Century


A rare example made entirely of panbone, the only known example of a scrimshaw ditty box depicting Alwilda, the female pirate. Top of lid with an exceptionally fine portrait of Alwilda, an image probably sourced from The Pirates Own Book ... by Charles Ellms. She stands on a checkered floor, holding aloft her sword with her right arm, resting her left hand on her hip, and wearing a dagger tucked behind her sash. Vine and scalloped border along perimeter. The sash, the cuffs of her jacket and the scalloped border are colored red. Lid's lip with a band of alternating shaded and concentric diamonds and the base with a sawtooth band above feathered diamonds and geometric garlands, all evocative of American Plains Indian designs. Lip joined with two carved and pinned fingers and the base with five.
Height 2.75". Length 7". Width 5".
Condition: Section of base with replacement piece of bone. Small chips to edges of base. Top finger on base with small split near pin. Other scattered small areas of wear, regluing, etc.

This item not available for international delivery.

  • Provenance:
    Hyland Granby Antiques, Hyannis Port, Massachusetts.
    The Collection of Ian R. MacKenzie.

    To be included in Wandering Whalemen and Their Art: A Collection of Scrimshaw Masterpieces by Alan Granby (Hyannis, Mass.: Alan Granby, fall 2021), Chapter 12 -- Boxes, plates 12.17a and 12.17b. The book will accompany a four-month scrimshaw exhibit to be held at the Cahoon Museum of American Art in Cotuit, Massachusetts.

    Several pieces of scrimshaw depicting Alwilda are in museum collections, are illustrated in Scrimshaw and Scrimshanders, Whales and Whalemen by E. Norman Flayderman (New Milford, Ct.: N. Flayderman & Co., Inc., 1972), p. 76-77, and Ingenious Contrivances, Curiously Carved by Stuart M. Frank (Boston: David R. Godine, 2012), p. 110, and have come to market in recent years, showing the popularity of the motif with scrimshanders.

    According to legend, Alwilda, or Awilda, was the daughter of a 5th Century Scandinavian king, and she turned to piracy to escape an arranged marriage to the crown prince of Denmark. Later the prince was sent to quell the pirates and was able to board Alwilda's ship and win the battle. She was so impressed by his bravery, she revealed her true identity and agreed to marry him.

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August 19, 2021 9:30 AM EDT
East Dennis, MA, US


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