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by Archaeology Newsroom

Stromatographic Analysis and Study of a Figurehead in the Nautical Historical Museum of Galaxeidi

Figureheads are carved wooden full-length figures mounted at the upper tip of the hull, where the keel terminates. The iconography of these artifacts of naval folk woodcarving is mainly influenced by the humans’ primeval fear of the unknown and their attempt to overcome it. Greek figureheads in particular often portray heroes from the Greek history and mythology. The huge eighteenth – and nineteenth – century figureheads can be ascribed to monumental sculpture and are quite unusual in the repertoire of the Greek folk art. The surviving figureheads belong to historical and nautical museums, while private collectors have acquired a considerable number of them. The figurehead presented here is exhibited in the Nautical Historical Museum of Galaxeidi, the oldest naval museum in Greece. It portrays a female figure, painted in black, who wears a long dress and a crown on her head and stands, projecting the right foot, on a pedestal. This article deals with the discovery of successive layers of pigment under the black coating and their documentation and study through stromatographic observation. The conclusion of this research was the location and identification of layers of different colors under the concealing black pigment, which verified the oral account that following the death of the captain and owner of the vessel, the figurehead of this ship and the shutters of his house were painted black as a mark of mourning.