Completed Restorations News

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





NH 03801 USA
TELEPHONE: (603) 433-8400
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An historically important ship's figurehead from the Brazilian slave ship 'Piratenim'


“Sworders sell historic  Figurehead of a South American Gaucho for £50,000  ( Plus premium )
a British sales record for a male Figurehead” read more at...


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

Richard Hunter
Figurehead Historian,
“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...

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