This post will be devoted to the second mermaid in our collection! This figurehead is a gilt mermaid with a greenish bronze tail and long flowing brown hair. I particularly like this mermaid because she was carved into the into the trail-boards of the the bow, something fairly abnormal for most other figureheads. As mentioned last post, the second half of the “Go Figure!” series will look at the darker side of mermaids, even though this mermaid does not appear to be scary or mean. I chose this mermaid to do this side of the creatures because the fin-like detail towards the end of her tail, give off a less human side than the other one did and show a more ‘evil’ aspect of mermaids.
The darker side of mermaids is the side that I have heard more tales about, and personally find it to be more interesting. I like that these women are seen as objects of beauty, but they have a dark twist. The most common of mermaid folklore says that these sea nymphs sing entrancing songs and use their beauty to lure sailors out to sea.
From there, legend says that mermaids would kill the sailors by drowning them or eating them (… lovely). And while some versions says that mermaids did not known that humans could not breathe underwater and were just in love, I personally don’t buy it. Other stories say that mermaids would bring bad luck and manipulate sailors into the water. A different take on the legend revolves around men jumping into the water to save a drowning female in the water, which resulted in his death. One modern day depiction of mermaids can be seen in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, the most recent film in the series. In the movie, the crew is attacked by a school of mermaids, who are nothing less then evil.
Returning to our own mermaid, she is from a 20th-century pleasure yacht, which we know because her long body is characteristic of the era. She was used in a exhibitions in 1996 and 2001. In 1996, the mermaid was in the exhibit “The Art of the Ship Carver and in 2001, she was in an exhibit called “Women and the Sea.” She can also be seen in a 1975 film by Bill Stokes,A Heritage to Keep: Great Moments in the History of the United States Navy,” (a copy can be found in our education department). Unfortunately now the mermaid is in storage, but I thought this was a good opportunity to show the public something new.
In terms of how the mermaid looks; she has brown wavy hair, a gilt body and greenish-bronze scales. Her revealed breasts demonstrates mariners’ predilection with nude women, and is very common in maritime artifacts. It is assumed that she probably did have arms, but they were not intact when she was given to us from Clifford W. Ashley, author of The Ashley Book of Knots. Had they been there, the right arm would have probably been held back with her fingers on her waist an the left arm would have been raised out or touching her head. This concludes our mermaid section of “Go Figure!” but be sure to check back for another figurehead from our collection.
For more information about mermaids check out:
Watch Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.