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.
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
Fortuna - A Figurehead Triptych
Dutch artist Maaike Vonk has chosen the “Hunter Figurehead archives” to showcase the resale of her inspirational figurehead triptych artwork “FORTUNA” originally created in 1987 for the restaurant of the De Beer hotel in Europort near Rotterdam. Painted in oils on canvas as three separate works of art that can be display looking inwards towards the front view of the Figurehead, or outwards, depending on how you care to position the three parts, using day and night symbolically, showing Ursa major, and Ursa minor in the top background of the dark sky, Maaike has deliberately kept the style of this piece naïve, reflecting the charm and fascination figureheads have held for generations of sailors and landlubbers alike, figureheads hold a special place in the Worlds rich maritime heritage, with an enduring mystery and allure that transcends time and space, “FORTUNA” is the embodiment of countless thousands of Figureheads that traversed the Worlds great oceans, holding witness to a lost art and tradition. When Maaike began this project she looked at all the surviving Ships Figureheads, in both private and public collections throughout her native Holland, she was even offered a rare opportunity to visit the reserve collection of carvings hidden away in the attic of the National Scheepvaartsmuseum in Amsterdam, but still couldn’t find a female figurehead that matched the idea already in her head, to solve this problem she crafted a three dimensional clay model, and used this as a reference point for the finished painting together with a number of preliminary sketches.
Read more: Fortuna - A Figurehead Triptych