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HMS Anson (?)

FHD0061
Figureheads

Object connections:

Collection Figureheads
User collections Strike a pose by lucinda
Gallery locationQH (Floor plans)
PeopleVendor: Cardiff Royal Infirmary
VesselsAnson 1781 (HMS)

Object details:

Object ID FHD0061
Description Finely carved bust-length figurehead (no arms) which has been associated with the 'Anson', a 64-gun third-rate built at Plymouth Dockyard in 1781 but reduced to a 44-gun ship in 1794. It represents a bearded warrior in classical armour and plumed helmet, mounted on a fiddle-pattern (backward-turning) scroll. The pose, with the head looking upward to viewers right gives it unusual dynamism for a bust figurehead. The style of armour and helmet suggest neo-classical 17th- or early 18th-century prints as a source, and one of some commonality: FHD0120, from the 'Ajax' built in 1809 at Blackwall, is rather similar. It is possible that such early print sources were mediated through more popular ones such as fairground figures, puppets or stage costume. Whether it really is the head of the 'Anson' is open to doubt, first because of its size - which is small even for a 44-gun ship, let alone a 64 - and also because this may only derive from a traditional identification as from Anson's 'Centurion', which was what it was said to be when purchased by a previous owner from Portsmouth Dockyard in 1900. That is certainly wrong since 'Centurion', also a 64, had a lion figurehead known to have been 16 feet in overall height. If from the 'Anson' , that ship was wrecked on the Looe Bar in Mount's Bay, Cornwall, on 29 December 1807. The present natural-wood 'antique' finish of this head may be the result of earlier painting being removed, since it would be very unusual for a ship to have one that was unpainted, however simply. It was acquired in 1943
Date made 1781

Credit National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London. Caird Fund.
Materials wood:oak
Measurements Overall: 810 mm x 440 mm x 390 mm x 35 kg
Parts
  • HMS Anson (?) (FHD0061)
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