View full screen - View 1 of Lot 33. A narwhal tusk, 19th century.
33

A narwhal tusk, 19th century

UK: Greenford Park WarehouseRestricted Species

Estimate:

4,000 - 6,000 GBP

Property of a Gentleman

A narwhal tusk, 19th century

A narwhal tusk, 19th century

Estimate:

4,000 - 6,000 GBP

Lot sold:

16,380

GBP

Authenticity guarantee

What is guaranteed?

Property of a Gentleman

A narwhal tusk, 19th century


raised on a stepped square ebonised wood base, on paw feet

153cm. high, 165cm. high (with base), 29cm. wide; 5ft.¼in., 5ft. 5in., 11½in.

In overall good condition. With very minor scratches, old marks and chipping, all consistent with age and use. Evidence of an old woodworm activity which no longer appears to be active.



Please note that Condition 12 of the Conditions of Business for Buyers (Online Only) is not applicable to this lot.


The lot is sold in the condition it is in at the time of sale. The condition report is provided to assist you with assessing the condition of the lot and is for guidance only. Any reference to condition in the condition report for the lot does not amount to a full description of condition. The images of the lot form part of the condition report for the lot. Certain images of the lot provided online may not accurately reflect the actual condition of the lot. In particular, the online images may represent colors and shades which are different to the lot's actual color and shades. The condition report for the lot may make reference to particular imperfections of the lot but you should note that the lot may have other faults not expressly referred to in the condition report for the lot or shown in the online images of the lot. The condition report may not refer to all faults, restoration, alteration or adaptation. The condition report is a statement of opinion only. For that reason, the condition report is not an alternative to taking your own professional advice regarding the condition of the lot. NOTWITHSTANDING THIS ONLINE CONDITION REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD "AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF SALE/BUSINESS APPLICABLE TO THE RESPECTIVE SALE.

This lot contains endangered species. Sotheby's recommends that buyers check with their own government regarding any importation requirements prior to placing a bid. For example, US regulations restrict or prohibit the import of certain items to protect wildlife conservation. Please note that Sotheby's will not assist buyers with the shipment of this lot to the US. A buyer's inability to export or import these lots cannot justify a delay in payment or sale cancellation.
The enigmatic mystery of the narwhal tusks began with the ancient Inuit folklore speculating on the existence of these magical unicorns of the sea. The myth of the narwhal being transmuted from a drowned woman with hair twisted and plaited to resemble a spiraled tusk has long fascinated the Inuit people. From hundreds of years ago, these tusks were thought by many to possess magical properties, including the power to purify poisoned water and to endow its owner with luck and authority.

In medieval Europe, such tusks were believed to be horns from the legendary unicorn. They served as objects indicating statutory importance and symbols of sovereignty in royal ceremonies and religious rites. Shrouded in captivating mystery and enchanted with magical powers, bearer of such objects are bestowed with reverence and authority. The mere sight of the majestic tusk will make all around him succumb with fear and awe.

Centuries of fascination by the narwhal tusk since its first appearance in Europe in the 10th to 11th centuries can be demonstrated by the wealth of their value in historical Europe. In fact, one such tusk was worth more money in Renaissance Italy than what Michelangelo was paid to paint the renowned ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Around 1580, Sir Humphrey Gilbert presented a carved and bejewelled tusk to Queen Elizabeth I which valued over £10,000, an amount just enough to purchase an entire castle. The charm of these hypnotising helical tusks remained as they continued to feature as enrapturing treasures amongst the cabinets of curiosity.

Narwhals are medium-sized toothed whales characterised by an elongated spiraled left canine tooth extending up to 3 metres long from their heads. This distinctive feature of a prominent, usually single tusk gained its Greek-derived scientific name, Monodon Monoceros, meaning ‘one tooth, one horn’. These fascinating marine inhabitants are active in the Arctic waters around Greenland, Canada, Norway and Russia.