In “Of the Monstrous Pictures of Whales,” Ishmael takes aim at pictorial misrepresentations of whales from ancient times to the middle of the nineteenth century. According to Ishmael, “the most ancient extant portrait anyways purporting to be the whale’s, is to be found in the famous cavern-pagoda of Elephanta, in India.” I haven’t been to Elephanta yet (though it’s one of the places I intend to see before my posting in the Emirates is over), but the cave sculptures look like this:


Ishmael’s description of Vishnu in the form of a whale (or fish), ” learnedly known as the Matse Avatar,” may owe something to Melville’s reading of T. Maurice