Information

Historically significant ship's figurehead from the slave ship Piratenim which was captured by H.M.S. Sharpshooter on July 22, 1851.  The figurehead is a wonderfdul example of the ship carver's art.  Both the detail of the carving and the design and composition of the form is outstanding as is the paint and gilding.  The figure is modelled as a South American gaucho or Bolero (mounted half-bred Indian Huntsman of the Argentine Republic), who catch the wild cattle and horses of the Pampas by hurling a ball, attached to a long line, round the animal's horns or forelegs, whereon the huntsman's horse, to whose saggle the other end of the line is secured, stops dead short, and so throws the pursued animal to the ground.                                                                                                                           The three-quarter length figure wears a curled brim hat, fastened to his chin with a string, with 'Piratenim' to the front, a white shirt and red scarf, a brass buttoned jacket and clasping his boleadoras to his left.  There is a carved gilded star-like decoration at the bottom front of the figure and a carved scroll on the right and left front corners.  The figurehead has a carved out dove-tail shaped track along the bottom center of the base where it slid into position on the base of the bow.  Centered in the back of the figurehead is a round hole that extends into the interior of the figurehead approximately 7 inches where an iron rod once fixed the figurehead to the vessel.  Having the ship's name painted in gold at the front of the black hat ribbon is a feature of great rarity.  Few figureheads are from known vessels because they are rarely identified as this one is with a painted name.                                                                                                                         The history of the figurehead and the actions taken by H.M.S. Sharpshooter to capture the slave ship Piratenim is told in a book titled 'H.M.S. Sharpshooter' and was written and privately printed by her captain, John C. Bailey.  'These reminiscences are printed for private circulation only amongst my relatives and friends. - J.C. B.' Accompanying the figurehead is a copy of the book which bears the inscription in the front:   'Lady Mary Ann Bailey from John C. Bailey.'  This was the special copy that Captain Bailey gave to his wife.   
In 1810, Great Britain in a treaty with Portugal began an effort for bringing about a gradual abolition of the slave trade.  This figurehead from the slave ship Piratenim is a chapter from that story and maybe the most significant historical artifact addressing these early efforts to abolish slavery.       FA-1024)

 

Condition:  The figurehead is in outstanding untouched original condition.  With the exception of a few scattered losses, the paint surface is original and stable with a gentle crackalure surface and mellow age patina.  The reason the figurehead is in such excellent condition is explained in the book ''H.M.S. Sharpshooter'.  To remain unnoticed slave ships typically flew no colors and in this case they would remove the figurehead which was an easy means of identifying the vessel.  The book 'H.M.S. Sharpshooter' explains how the figurehead was found and this explanation accounts for the remarkable condition.  Upon boarding the Piratenim, Captain Bailey entered the Captain's quarters of the Piratenim and heard sounds of female slaves hidden below a hatch in the floor.  While removing the twenty-six women and three children the figurehead was discovered in the hole perfectly preserved not having had the exposure of the sea and elements which would of clearly impacted the figurehead's condition.
Provenance:  From 1851, this ship's figurehead was in the possession of John C. Bailey.  In the 1940s it appeared for sale in an antique store in Worcester, England.  It was bought at this time by Mr. Vivian Collett and remained in the Collett family until recently when a grandson or daughter of Vivian Collett sold it.  When it was purchased by Vivian Collett, it drew much attention and an article was written by Averil Mackenzie-Grieve titled 'The Last of the Brazilian Slavers, 1851' which appeared in the Mariners Mirror, Vol. 30, 1944.  The original hand-typed manuscript of this article accompanies the figurehead and is based on Captain John C. Bailey's book 'H.M.S. Sharpshooter.' At the time of the article the figurehead was professionally photgraphed and there remains 2 original black and white photographs (6 1/2 x  4 7/8) showing two views of the carving. One can see clearly from the photographs that the condition of the carving has remained unchanged over the last 70 years.
Dimensions:  Height 25 inches; Width 12 inches; Depth 16 inches.