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by Archaeology Newsroom

The Prow-statue known as the “Themistocles”

The collection of the Historic Ethnologic Society of Greece comprises, among its other exhibits, a number of figurehead prow-statues from ships used during the Greek Revolution of 1821. The prow-statues, carved by specialist craftsmen who had their workshop close to shipyards, probably originated not from Greece but also from workshops located abroad, like Trieste, where a Greek colony prospered. Distinct among the prow-statues of the collection is the so-called “Themistocles” from the ship that went by the same name, belonging to the Hadji-Janni Mexi family from Spetses. Carved on a trunk of a coniferous tree, the statue consists of a central and three adjusted parts. We are dealing here with its restoration and aesthetic presentation. After a prow-statue was carved, it was painted with minium (to be better protected from sun and sea) and then with colours. However every time the ship was repaired, the prow-statue was also repainted and, as a result today, certain statues display seven to eight successive layers of painting. The damages of the “Themistocles” can be classified as follows:

1. Damages caused by prolonged exposure to sun and sea that destroys the painted surface.

2. Wood decay caused by wood-eating microorganisms, like termites and moths.

3. Damage caused by the mutability of environmental conditions.

4. Damage caused by rusty nails.

During the course of restoration the successive layers of overpainting were removed and the original painted surface was uncovered. The metal nails were replaced by wooden ones, while for aesthetic reasons, the damaged, lost parts of the wood were replaced with polyurethane resin. Finally, the wood underwent a preventive insecticide treatment. An aesthetic presentation of the restored prow-statue followed; where it was judged absolutely necessary, the statue was painted with water-colours so as to regain more or less its original overall effect.