Spermaceti Oil (date unknown)
14.8cm high x 6.5cm
KINCM:1957.72.4, Hull Maritime Museum

Spermaceti oil, taken directly out of the bulbous head cavity of sperm whales, caught in the Pacific, was especially valued for lighting, as it burnt brightly and without odour. Turner’s key patron Elhanan Bicknell was a spermaceti oil merchant, and Turner may both have painted his whaling quartet with Bicknell in mind, and used spermaceti oil, mixed with his paint, to fashion his pictures.

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Credit: Images are courtesy of the Hull Maritime Museum