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19th Century Colored Lithograph of Sperm Whaling with Its Varieties, 1870


Fine colored lithograph of Sperm Whaling with its Varieties, after Original by Benjamin Russell (New Bedford: 1804-1885), Published by John Henry Bufford (Boston: 1810-1870), Artist’s Proof printed in 1870, a colored lithographed finished by hand, depicting two whaleships in the foreground (and three others on the horizon), with boats lowered and engaging in the “varieties” of whaling, listed across the bottom as Waiting a Chance. Setting on the Whale. Ship Cutting In. Just Fastening. Fast Changing Ends. Dead Whale Waif’d. Fast Boat Rolling up Sail. Whale Sounding. Mate Running. Trying Out. Stove Boat. Towing Whale to Ship. Whale in a flurry (Dying); matted and framed. Benjamin Russell was a native of New Bedford and spent four years on a whaler in the 1840s. His experience enabled him to paint with a sense of realism that is faithful and informative, as well as dramatic. He is generally regarded as the best American illustrator of whaling under sail. John Bufford is equally notable. After working for Nathaniel Currier in New York, he returned to his native Boston and started his own business. He employed among others, Winslow Homer, one of America’s greatest 19th century artists. Bufford produced a wide variety of Americana imagery, but is best known for scenes such as this one. His whaling lithographs are by far the best of the period, and this particularly vivid image is considered one of the two most desirable that he published. Examples in mint condition can sell today for $16,000. This lithograph is quite scarce, and today is amongst the most sought after whaling scene. The fact that is the Artist’s Proof (so designated Proof in the lower right), adds tremendously to its desirability and value in that no other copy has as fine detail. The condition is overall very good, with minor blemishes: paper has barely tanned, there is a tear in the lower right margin, a short crease or tear in the upper right margin.


  • Condition
    Good. Please read full description above. Image: 19 1/8 in H x 33 ¾ in W Frame: 28 ½ in High x 42 ¼ in Wide.
  • Wear
    Minor structural damages.
  • Dimensions

    H 28.50 in. x W 42.25 in. x D 1 in.

    H 72.39 cm x W 107.32 cm x D 2.54 cm

  • Seller location
    Nantucket, MA
  • Seller reference number
  • Reference number

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About the Seller

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