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Encyclopedia > Figurehead
Forecastle with figurehead Grand Turk
Forecastle with figurehead
Grand Turk

Figurehead is a carved wooden decoration, often female or bestiary, found at the prow of ships of the 16th to the 19th century. The practice was introduced with the galleons of the 16th century, as although earlier ships had often had some form of bow ornamentation, the figurehead as such could not come to be until ships had an actual head structure upon which to place it. Image File history File links Download high resolution version (960x1280, 464 KB) Please see the file description page for further information. ... Image File history File links Download high resolution version (960x1280, 464 KB) Please see the file description page for further information. ... Grand Turk, at anchor in Oostende, Belgium The Grand Turk is a three-masted 6th rate frigate, well known as the from the TV series Hornblower (and also as the French ship Papillon). ... Prow, the fore part of a ship, the stem and its surrounding parts, hence used like keel, by metonymy, of the ship itself. ... Italian Full rigged ship Amerigo Vespucci in New York Harbor, 1976 A ship is a large watercraft capable of deep water navigation. ... A Spanish galleon A galleon was a large, multi-decked sailing ship used primarily by the nations of Europe from the 16th to 18th centuries. ...


As with the stern ornamentation, the purpose of the figurehead was often to indicate the name of the ship in a non-literate society (albeit in a sometimes very convoluted manner); and always, in the case of naval ships, to demonstrate the wealth and might of the owner. At the height of the Baroque period, some ships of the line boasted gigantic figureheads, weighing several tons and sometimes twinned on both sides of the bowsprit. Adoration, by Peter Paul Rubens. ...


A large figurehead, being carved from massive wood and perched on the very foremost tip of the hull, adversely affected the sailing qualities of the ship. This, and cost considerations, led to figureheads' being made dramatically smaller during the 1700s, and in some cases they were abolished altogether around 1800. After the Napoleonic wars they made something of a comeback, but were then often in the form of a small waist-up bust rather than the oversized full figures previously used. The clipper ships of the 1850s and '60s customarily had full figureheads, but these were relatively small and light. Combatants Allies: Austria[1] Portugal Prussia[1] Russia[2] Spain[3] Sweden United Kingdom[4] Ottoman Empire[5] French Empire Holland Kingdom of Italy Kingdom of Naples Duchy of Warsaw Bavaria[6] Saxony[7] Denmark [8] Commanders Archduke Charles Prince Schwarzenberg Karl Mack von Leiberich Gebhard von Blücher Karl... A model of a vessel of the clipper type, the four-masted barque named Belle Étoile A clipper was a very fast multiple-masted sailing ship of the 19th century. ...


Figureheads as such died out with the sailing ship. Early steamships, however, did sometimes have gilt scroll-work and coats-of-arms at their bows. This practice lasted up until about World War I. The 1910 German liner SS Imperator originally sported a large bronze figurehead of an eagle (the Imperial German symbol) standing on a globe. The few extra feet of length added by the figurehead made the Imperator the longest ship in the world at the time of her launch. “The Great War ” redirects here. ... SS Imperator as RMS Berengaria. ...


It is still common practise for warships to carry metal badges somewhere on their superstructure which, like figureheads, relate to the ship's name- for example Type 42 Destroyers of the Royal Navy, which are named after British cities, carry badges depicting the coat of arms of their namesake. Type 42 destroyer HMS Manchester Type 42, also known as the Sheffield class, is a class of destroyers of the Royal Navy. ... The Royal Navy of the United Kingdom is the oldest of the British armed services (and is therefore the Senior Service). ... A modern coat of arms is derived from the medi val practice of painting designs onto the shield and outer clothing of knights to enable them to be identified in battle, and later in tournaments. ...


In Germany, Belgium, and Holland, it was once believed that spirits/faeries called Klaboutermannikins (water mannikins) dwelt in the figureheads. The spirit guarded the ship from sickness, rocks, storms, and dangerous winds. If the ship sank, the Klaboutermannikin guided the sailors' souls to the Land of the Dead. To sink without a Klaboutermannikin condemned the sailor's soul to haunt the sea forever, so Dutch sailors believed.

Wikimedia Commons has media related to:
Figurehead

External Links

  • The Figurehead Archive
  • South Australian Maritime Museum
  • Figureheads

  Results from FactBites:
 
Figurehead - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (295 words)
A figurehead is a carved wooden decoration, often female or bestiary, found at the prow of ships of the 16th to the 19th century.
The practice was introduced with the galleons of the 16th century, although earlier ships had often had some form of bow ornamentation the figurehead as such could not come to be until ships had a head structure to place it on.
As with the stern ornamentation, the purpose of the figurehead was often to indicate the name of the ship in a non-literate society (albeit in a sometimes very convoluted manner); and always, in the case of naval ships, to demonstrate the wealth and might of the owner.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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