A polar bear head figurehead from the exploration ship HMS Resolute (purchased 1850). The figurehead was, at some point painted white, but is now worn and discoloured. The polar bear appears to be inspired by an illustration in Sir John Ross’s published account of his 1818 Arctic expedition, which shows the bear’s head in the same pose.
The figurehead was saved after the ship was broken up in 1879 and the timbers used to make various pieces of furniture, including a desk presented to the President of the United States. It remains in the Oval Office of the White House.
National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
wood: elm ?
Overall: 660 mm x 279 mm x 254 mm x 13 kg
The figurehead of a polar bear from the exploration ship HMS Resolute (1850) (FHD0117)