A finely detailed carved wood figurehead, diminutive with classic features, the origin of this womanly ship icon is American. Telltale clues include that her regency-style, just-above-the-shoulder dress sleeves that "poof" and the modest neckline, especially when matched to the upswept, comb-held, coiled hairstyle and carved oval earrings. All these fashion elements are suggestive of American fashion, circa 1820s. The leading figurehead historian England and a distinguished maritime museum curator in America both concur.
Properly attired, she looks quite reserved. Set on a carved plinth with a geometric pattern and rolling scroll, it blends into a sash-ribbon tied around her torso. The detail of the hair tightly bound in an upswept coiled bun. Prim and poised, the woman figure is fairly vertical in position, indicating an installation on a smaller vessel, possibly the bow of a schooner or small brig from the first quarter of the 19th Century. It has the correct wood plugs to have been properly mounted. The simple white paint with the sea-foam green dress is most likely very close to her original color and just freshened up a bit over time.
It is recorded that the piece was salvaged from a sailing vessel that broke up in Stomness on Orkney in the 19th Century, and entered a British collection and passed through the family for three generations before being sold. It is a classic American ship's figurehead of a quality, type and size seldom found.
A full report on this antique, carved figurehead by leading figurehead historian Richard Hunter of England is available.
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