female ship figurehead tilted forward in flowing dress, wreath of plaited grain on head, hands at sides, one arm holding sheaf of wheat, other a sickle (both attributes of Ceres, the Roman goddess of grain); mythology; woman; agriculture
With her head raised and her garment billowing behind her, this carved wooden figurehead once faced boldly into the wind on the prow of a ship. A figurehead expressed the owner’s pride in a ship and hopes for good fortune at sea. The weathering and repainting evident on this piece suggest a long period of active use.
The sickle that this female figure holds in her right hand, as well as the sheaf of grain in her left and the wreath on her head, identify her as Ceres, the Roman goddess of agriculture and fertility. Ceres was also a common ship name and probably the name of the vessel that she adorned. Pins through the holes in the figure’s belly and below the hemline of the dress would have attached her to the ship.
woman; watercraft; mythology; agriculture