The Figurehead Archives
Built up during a period of over 40 years the full Figurehead Archive can be divided into two quite distinctive areas of research, the first and perhaps most important are the photographic representations of Ships Figureheads, both on and off the vessels, plus a number of other Maritime Woodcarvings, such as Stern Board Carvings, and Cats Heads, this is built up from historic Black and White prints taken from the early 1900’s until the late 1950’s, to more contemporary prints in colour, and now digital images.
The Archive also has an extensive collection of colour slides from both private and public collections around the world, many show Figureheads that have been lost due to war, fire, neglect, or are no longer on public display or form part of private collections.
In many ways it has been possible to study the life of individual carvings over a long period of time, looking at both historic black and white photos and more contemporary prints showing before and after restoration or damage, at the moment the photographic collection stands at around 45,000 images, including slides, photographs and digital images, with new items added almost daily.
The second part of the Figurehead Archive is a library of over 800 books and publications on the subject of Ships Figureheads, Maritime, Woodcarvings, Maritime Antiques including a large number of magazines, newspaper articles and cuttings from the 1850’s to the present day from all around the world. As with the photographic collection the bibliography material is being constantly added to building a collection and archive of international importance.
The Lady Young Figurehead - FOR SALE
From R Merta Americana Antiques & Folk Art Of Indian Harbour Beach Florida USA
Looking resplendent in her Union Jack Dress the Figurehead of the British sailing ship “LADY YOUNG” will be offered for sale by Northeast Auctions of Portsmouth New Hampshire, the preeminent auction house for Maritime art and artefacts in America, part of the Folk Art holdings of R Merta Americana Antiques & Folk Art based at Indian Harbour Beach in Florida, This impressive carving is one of his non-American pieces. On offer is a genuine antique ships figurehead from the barque “LADY YOUNG.” a 589 ton British owned ship, originally built in Canada in 1870, on the night of the 27th October 1880 she was bound from Hamburg to Cardiff with a general cargo, at the height of gale she ran aground off the treacherous South Devon coast breaking her back, becoming a total wreck, it was recorded that several other vessels were in trouble that particular night. “Lady Young’s” Captain, John Watkins was trying desperately to reach safety in Plymouth Sound. By one a.m. that night the fight was over the 144 foot long ship was firmly on the rocks near the local village of Bantham. The LADY YOUNG which had been built of the finest wood in Quebec in the year 1870 was a total wreck and was broken up by the sea over the preceding days that followed, wood and parts of the cargo from the ship were sold at a local auction, The figurehead and parts of the carved stern board also found their way on to the beach to be salvaged by locals, it is believed that fragments of the Stern board are still in private hands in the area, This impressive three quarter figurehead represents a young woman, in a flowing dress, in her right hand held across her breast she holds a small posies of flowers, on her head a stylized castellated crown in Gold, with a gold necklace and belt, with ringlets of hair on either side of her shoulders.
Professionally restored, she boasts great detail and history from the wreck site. She still maintains at the back of the Figurehead part of her “iron fixing bar” attached to the rear of the piece, allowing the carving to be securely attached to the vessel, this fixing bar fractured during the wreck allowing the Figurehead to break free and wash ashore with other fragments of the vessel structure.
This figurehead was first discovered in South Devon, not far from the wreck site, still in private hands by historian and figurehead expert Richard Hunter of England, who with research established the likely provenance of this impressive carving.
Reading: “SHIPWRECKS OF THE SOUTH HAMS” by Kendall McDonald.
Richard Hunter, Great Britain
R Merta Americana LLC
“LADY YOUNG” will be sold during the 2015 Auction Season at Northeast Auctions, (date of sale still to be announced) for more details contact
TREADWELL MANSON, 93 PLEASANT STREET, PORTSMOUTH, NEW HAMPSHIRE
NH 03801 USA
TELEPHONE: (603) 433-8400
An historically important ship's figurehead from the Brazilian slave ship 'Piratenim'
Cambridge Road, Stansted Mountfitchet, Essex, CM24 8GE
Have asked the
Hunter Figurehead Archives
To feature an historic and important figurehead to be sold in its sale on the 9th December 2014
During its Winter Country House Sale at its Stansted Mountfitchet Auction room
Carved wood and painted, modeled as a South American gaucho, the 3/4 length figure a white shirt and a red scarf a brass buttoned jacket and clasping his boleadoras to his left, 63cm high
With a book by Captain John C. Bailey 'H.M.S Sharpshooter', privately printed a typed draft of Averil MacKenzie-Grieve's 'The Last of the Brazilian Slavers, 1851' with an alternate title 'A Brazilian Slaver's Figurehead - The story of the capture by HMS Sharpshooter' (3) Bought by the vendor's grandfather, from an antique dealer in Worcester in the 1940s
Literature: Averil Mackenzie-Grieve 'The Last of the Brazilian Slavers, 1851, Mariners Mirror, Vol. 30, 1944. Captain John C. Bailey 'H.M.S Sharpshooter'
HMS Sharpshooter was one of the first iron steamers to be used by the Royal Navy, was built by Ditchburn and Mare in 1846, and entered service after sea trails in 1848. In Captain Bailey's account she was, 'a brand new and experimental steam gun vessel of 489 tons and 202 horse-power, carrying eight guns, namely six 32-pounder medium guns on the broadsides, one 8-inch 68-pounder pivot gun forward, and one 10-inch 84-pounder pivot aft. She was the first iron ship to which the screw propeller had ever been applied'. After serving in the Channel Squadron and the Mediterranean, HMS Sharpshooter headed to the coast of Brazil on anti-slavery duties. Averil Mackenzie-Grieve's 'The Last of the Brazilian Slavers, 1851, published in The Mariners Mirror, Vol. 30, 1944, takes details from Captain Bailey's account and explains vividly the capture of the 'Piratenim'.
Over 70 years ago a small two page article appeared in the British publication The Mariners Mirror under the heading “The last of the Brazilian Slaver 1851”, the story of a Figurehead, describing the extraordinary history of the Piratenim Figurehead, from its dramatic capture by the British Warship HMS SHARPSHOOTER to its remarkable survival as a relic of vessel with a tragic history and career, after 70 years in private hands this historically important carving is coming back on to the market, with an outstanding provenance, had the unfortunate Piratenim been engaged in general trade it’s doubtful that this charming figurehead would have survived, one of countess small merchant Figureheads produced during the first half of the nineteenth century, the fact that he was removed from a known and notorious slaver, and as such possibly the only acknowledged and documented figurehead from a vessel engaged in the Slave trade has ensured his survival, from the time he was removed from the bow of the vessel as a trophy and given first to Sir Joseph Bailey, to the ultimate safe keeping of its last owner Mr Vivian Collett, very few surviving Figureheads have the weight of history so heavy on its shoulders, this is one such Figurehead, the benign stare of that charming unknown Argentine gaucho belies the horror of the trade its host undertook, the surviving journal of John Bailey, Lieutenant in command of HMS SHARPSHOOTER is compelling reading, bringing to life the history of this particular figurehead.
Piratenim is an important and rare artefact in the history of the abolishment of the slave trade, during the first half of the nineteenth century as well as a ships figurehead, the only surviving relic of its host vessel. Offering this figurehead an enviable provenance given to very few carvings of this age, size and subject
“The Hunter Figurehead Archives”
Should you be interested in this carving and would like more details, I have a number of other views showing the carving in more detail, or should you would be interested in me acting as your agent in the sale from the United Kingdom, please contact me.
For further details on this item and the sale visit...
Innovation in Figurehead Representation
From the creative mind of Barry McKay
When I first began my research into ships Figurehead over 40 years ago, it’s safe to say that the World was indeed a different place; letters came in the post from all over the world, if I was looking for information and details on a particular figurehead in say South America or Australia, contact could and would take months, in the case of some museums literally years, but in it came and with all these letters came 100’s of black and white or the occasional colour photographs , building up as it has to what I can safely called the Worlds largest private archive of Figurehead images.
In recent year the burst of technology has been incredible, the advent of e-mail and digital photography has enabled Museums and collections in the most out of the way location to write instantly and at the same time send over images without cost and very little effort, this has created an all new area of research and archival material, images are now stored in memory sticks in vast numbers, allowing for instant access, we can only wonder at what the future will bring.
Read more: Innovation in Figurehead Representation