From the earliest days of navigation sailors have decorated their ships with symbols for luck and protection, with important heroes and flags for pride and a combination of both for intimidation of other ships.
Figureheads, while the most obvious, were not the only forms of ornamentation- taffrails, trailboards, billetheads, catheads, gangway boards and sternboards were often well carved and painted figures, flags or flourishes. Human or mythological figures were particularly important, from eyes painted on the bows of Greek ships to figures like the sternboards we have today, they stood watch day and night over a ship's fortunes at sea.
These two female figures, likely meant to evoke mermaids, would have been mounted to either side of the stern of a British frigate or ship of the line. As you can see in the reference photos of ship models below, the placement of carved figures was common particularly around the windows often found at the stern of the great fighting ships of the age of sail.
This pair is well carved with distinct faces and hair, and dimensional bodies. The wood retains some of its original paint and they both show appropriate wear for ship's figures of this age.
Many great ships carvings like this were lost after a ship was damaged or put out of service. To have a pair together in good condition is quite rare. These would be beautiful mounted on either side of a painting or other focal point. The painting shown in the lead photo here is by James E. Buttersworth- Here's a Link: https://www.vallejogallery.com/2022/item.php?id=2803
first name :