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Beaching a Whale

Major collection: Hart Nautical
Named collection: Allan Forbes Collection
Object type: watercolor
Maker: unknown
Place made: Japan
Date made: 1800-1899
Materials: board; watercolor; paper
Measurements: 7 in x 42 1/2 in
Nomenclature: whaling scene
Classification: whales

An original panoramic watercolor of village whaling in which a harpooned right whale is being towed up to shore by Japanese villagers with a kagura winch for flensing and processing. As men in a longboat near the tail signal with a flag and guide the whale ashore, others wade in the shallow water piercing and axing the whale further. Latecomers emerge from the thatched-roof huts on the left with flensing tools Traditional Japanese whaling was an intensely community-based, highly structured system with pronounced specializations of function and compartmentalization of responsibility. A successful whale hunt boosted the community and was a cause for a great celebration. The scene is rendered on two sheets of paper glued together to form a continuous scene. The horizontal format suggests the work perhaps was originally par of a handscroll.