Among the diverse decorative arts produced by seafarers and ship builders over the centuries, authentic carvings off of actual ships continue to be highly sought after and increasingly difficult to find. This large carved sailing tiller arm is one of only very few examples we have seen of this size, and only the second such nautical antique offered by the gallery.
A rudder arm with such fine detailed carving would have stood out from the more mundane examples, and offers lasting appreciation as both a valuable maritime antique and as a fine example of the carver’s art. Due to wood’s inability to hold up against years of exposure to salt water and weather, only a very small percentage of the decorative ships’ carvings survive into the 21st Century.
This extremely well preserved and presented hardwood tiller arm features a Celtic Cat laying ‘couchant’, its heraldic pose completed with the imaginary continuation the cat’s body as the full length of the wood artifact. The cat is aggressively showing its teeth in fierce armament. Deeply grained and expertly shaped with consideration for the grain pattern, the wood resembles English Oak, but is quite light in weight and of extreme age. The well-preserved tiller has a leather covered neck grip showing visible signs of the wear caused by tied lines to keep the rudder on a straight course. The grip is bounded with knot-work ring collars. The curvature of the rudder-steering device would allow for a captain to navigate from the stern cockpit of what was undoubtably a decent sized sailing ship. The length is carved in a quite nice stylized rope braid, and the "klick board" has a floral design motif carved just forward of where the arm would mount into the rudder head.
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