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18th Century American Art

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Sternboard with Derby Family Coat-of-Arms

ca. 1790
41 in. (104.1 cm)

Unknown, American
American

Object Type: Sculpture
Medium and Support: Wood and paint
Credit Line: The Charles A. Carruth Memorial Fund
Accession Number: 1957.73
Location: Currently on view
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It was a common practice to decorate the bows and sterns of sailing ships with sculptures made by expert carvers. Often, these creations were embellished with painted carved figures—hence the term 'figurehead'—and occasionally symbols that identified the ship's owner. This sternboard has both. It would have been placed in the rear - the stern - of the ship. Tradition has it that the sternboard's ship was owned by Elias Derby, a prodigiously wealthy merchant from Salem, Massachusetts whose fleet of ships traveled to remote parts of the world carrying trade goods.

[Gallery label text, 2002]

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