Elegant with diminutive proportions, a flowing dress and a carved cameo locket and pearls, this American figurehead appropriately has her chin up and hair demurely tied. She absolutely began her existence as a prominent part of a 19th century sailing ship, carved from a hard pine and covered with gesso and a creamy tone with some of her original deep green coloration showing. Positioned as the culmination of the bow, a figurehead is among the most prized artifacts which come from a ship. More than just an artistically carved image, each serves as the symbol of the ship’s nature and namesake.
Figure carvers found work in the shipyards of the east coast as a full-time occupation for more than 200 years, beginning in the second half of the 17th century. Most often, their works were directly commissioned by the vessel builders and owners, and the final result would be an image that closely identified with the vessel’s name in nearly all cases.
Securely attached to a heavy steel strut and base, she is positioned with her natural rake. Her extreme bottom has been stabilized to prevent further deterioration and some of the original wood patina is showing in its highly polished state. A fine surviving artifact of the great age of sail.
Provenance: Mr. & Mrs. G. William Holland Collection of American Folk Art;
Smith Gallery, New York
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