Whalebone seat (c.1801-1900)

KINCM:2007.1330, Hull Maritime Museum

This unusual, morbid bench is made almost exclusively from various whale bones. The back and are whale ribs interlaced with discs from whale vertebrae. The legs are again made of whale vertebrae and carved with gargoyle like faces. The remainder is made of carved oak, and features various mythical animals, such as unicorns, widely identified with another Arctic mammal, the narwhal, because of its long tusks, as well as human-faced serpents as surface detail. Whilst most people would now consider the bench a grotesque object because of its materiality and form, such furniture was popular in the nineteenth century, and represents a kind of Arctic equivalent of the antler furniture popularised by Victoria and Albert.

help icon

Credit: Images are courtesy of the Hull Maritime Museum