Figureheads and sculptures

Figureheads are sculptures placed at the bow of a ship that help to identify the vessel, and that hold a significant symbolic value. In general, they refer to the vessel’s name or nickname, and often represent human figures. In warships, lions, eagles or other animals representing strength and power were common. Like the rest of the ship, figureheads were painted, often with bright colours to make them visible from a distance. Unfortunately, the original paint is rarely intact. Because of their aesthetic and symbolic value, figureheads were often removed from ships at the end of their life. That is why we can find them in museums and private collections, although it is not always possible to associate a figurehead with the ship it comes from. The Maritime Museum of Barcelona has 14 figureheads of different types, with especially notable pieces like Blanca Aurora, El Ninot, the Lady with a Rose, Saint Michael, etc.

Other pieces of sculpture might include decorations from the stern or the deck of a ship (smaller in size and not as spectacular, like the figures of Turks from the 18th century) or religious pieces (like a Saint Elmo from the 18th century) or sculptures somehow related to seafarers and the maritime world.