Circa 1830


Depicts a whaling scene of three ships, decreasing in size from left to right, and two six-man whaleboats in pursuit of a large pod of whales. Each of the ships is flying a long pennant from the mainmast and an American flag from the mizzenmast. The smallest is more definitively a whaleship, with a whaleboat on davits at the stern and a whale drawn up alongside the vessel. One of the whaleboats is fast to a whale and the other's harpoon has nearly made a strike. The pod of whales is almost playfully arranged, with some whales overlapping each other and others placed at the edges of the busk so they are only partially rendered. Two old typewritten labels affixed to reverse: "Corset-board or 'stomacher' of whale bone etched with a sail needle by Mr. Haight's great uncle, a whaling capt. depicts a typical whaling scene" and "Josiah Sheffield uncle of Henrietta ___ Smith Haight; was captain of a whaler at the age of 19, born in Nantucket; ___ seat at age of 30 and went to Fabius, N.Y. for 17 years then to Makokita, Iowa with his second wife, Mary E. Mason ... he made the whalebone swift, and brought back the paddle, sea shells etc. from the Pacific when on whaling voyages there; was about 70 when he died ...". One label inscribed in pencil "Ship Timoleon - 1833".
Length 13".
Condition: Very slight and old chipping at edge of busk, above the space between the whaleship and the pod of whales. Lays nearly flat, with virtually no warping. Labels on reverse attached with glue. The larger with chipping and some minor losses.
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  • Provenance:
    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 Ten – Busks, plates 10.3a and 10.3b. The book will accompany a four-month scrimshaw exhibit to be held at the Cahoon Museum of American Art in Cotuit, Massachusetts.

    According to Scrimshaw and Provenance: A Third Dictionary of Scrimshaw Artists by Stuart M. Frank (Mystic, Ct.: Stuart M. Frank and Mystic Seaport Museum, 2013), p. 249-250, Josiah Sheffield, Jr. was born in 1807 on Nantucket to parents who hailed from Rhode Island. It is likely his first whaling voyage was aboard a Nantucket ship, and then he served aboard the New Bedford ship
    Averick from 1828 to 1831, though he was listed as Jonah Sheffield, rather than Josiah. His third and last whaling voyage, lasting from 1831 to 1835, was on the New Bedford ship Timoleon , during which he is known to have scrimmed the "Timoleon Tooth", which is part of the New Bedford Whaling Museum Collection, a similar tooth also depicting the Timoleon , and a pair of teeth known as the "Log Teeth", which are included in this auction.

    Sheffield settled in Fabius, New York, then by 1870 had moved to Maquoketa (Makokita), Iowa. He died there in 1880.

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


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