Narwhal tusk mounted on a XVII century roman colored marble base (added later)
H : 164,50 cm
CITES certificate number : 377573
The enigmatic mystery of the narwhal tusks began with the ancient Inuit folklore speculating on the existence of these magical unicorns of the sea.
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.
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. The charm of these hypnotising helical tusks remained as they continued to feature as enrapturing treasures amongst the cabinets of curiosity.
Their price reached its peak in the middle of the 16th century. However, it was during this same century that we began to question their presumed provenance. In 1607, then in 1645, the narwhal was identified as a marine animal and was the subject of detailed descriptions. In the eighteenth century, the doubt was finally dispelled and it was finally established that the famous unicorn horns were in reality only narwhal tusks.
Narwhals are medium-sized toothed whales characterised by an elongated spiraled left canine tooth extending from their heads. This distinctive feature of a prominent 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.
Recent findings by Dr. Martin Nweeia, researcher at Harvard School of Dental Medicine, indicate that the richly innervated narwhal tusk provides remarkable sensory capabilities which allow the creature to detect changes in water temperature, pressure and particle gradients for food navigation.
After the eighteen century, the horns gained in scientific interest what they lost in symbolic or esoteric value, and remained just as precious, in particular in the eyes of collectors, as evidenced by the beautiful colored marble frame presented here.