El Ninot figurehead

El Ninot figurehead

El Ninot, unknown, 19th century

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Num. inventory: 1035

Object name: figurehead

Title: El Ninot (The Doll)

Object date: 19th century

Author: unknown

Technique and material: polychrome woodcarving

Figureheads and sculptures

19th-century wooden carving by an unknown author. Shows a child holding the title of a third-class navigator or pilotí rolled up in his left hand. With this, he could board a ship as a nautical student. He holds his peaked cap in his right hand.

For years, this figurehead decorated the façade of Rafael Martí’s tavern on Carrer València in Barcelona, which at that time was on the outskirts of the city. The tavern became very well-known, and the new neighbourhood that sprung up around it became known as El Ninot (The Doll). Currently, the municipal market that still bears this name has a reproduction of this figurehead on its façade.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, there were many merchant ships decorated with figureheads, often the polychrome likeness of the wife of the shipowner or captain, mythological figures, coats of arms, birds or fish. However, the appearance of steamships and the growing use of metal in shipbuilding resulted in the gradual disappearance of figureheads.