Carved Flower Ornament

Between the 17th and 19th centuries, carved wooden ornaments were a distinctive and elaborate feature on naval ships. These intricate carvings served both decorative and symbolic purposes, often reflecting the status, identity, and pride of the ship and its crew. Figureheads, perhaps the most iconic of these carvings, were often mounted on the prow of the ship. They depicted figures such as mythical beings, animals, or historical and allegorical characters, believed to offer protection or bring good luck to the vessel.

Besides figureheads, ships featured decorative panels, tailboards, and other carvings around the bow and stern. These embellishments often included floral motifs, scrollwork, and other intricate designs. The creation of these ornaments required skilled artisans, known as carvers or figurehead carvers. Using woods like oak, pine, or teak, these craftsmen meticulously chiselled and painted the decorations. The durability of the wood and the layers of paint helped protect the carvings from harsh maritime conditions. By the late 19th century, the advent of steel shipbuilding and changing naval aesthetics led to the decline of ornate wooden decorations.

The painted floral decoration presented here likely adorned the tailboard, a pair of boards positioned at the bow, adding to the ship’s elegance and visual symmetry. Carvings could also be found on the transom, the flat surface forming the stern, quarter galleries, structures