Jenny Lind Ship's Figurehead

  • The 19th-century opera singer, Jenny Lind, is depicted in this ship's figurehead
  • Lind was the most famous female vocalist of her age, and at least 35 ships were named for her
  • This beautifully carved figurehead would have proudly adorned the bowsprit of one of these vessels
  • Get complete item description here
Item No. 31-3400

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This ship’s figurehead is beautifully carved to resemble the most famous female vocalist of the 19th century, Swedish opera singer Jenny Lind. As the central focus of the vessel and its most important piece of carved work, shipbuilders took pride in crafting figureheads, with the best imparting an impressive level of detail and personality into their subjects. In the 19th century, subjects ranged from classical gods, goddesses, lions and saints to realistic portrayals of more recent legends like Davy Crockett or Jenny Lind. With her arm outstretched and her gown flowing in the wind, this figurehead is a stunning tribute to both this historic entertainer and the long tradition of nautical wood carving.

Nicknamed the “Swedish Nightingale” for her sweet singing voice, Lind was a cultural sensation in Europe in the 1840s, performing across the continent to rave reviews. She was loved by royals and the public alike and was so well known that her visage adorned perfume bottles, soaps and cigar boxes. In 1850, at the height of her fame, circus producer P.T. Barnum organized a two-year American tour for the singer. She took the country by storm, selling out concerts in each city she visited, and the public demand for her was so great that the media dubbed it “Lind Mania.”

Lind donated a significant portion of her earnings from her American tour to various charitable causes, including Sailors' Homes and Hospitals, making her massively popular with sailors. At least thirty-five vessels named for Jenny Lind are recorded around this period, including both a Union Army steamer and a Confederate schooner. Many of these ships carried figureheads carved to resemble the “Swedish Nightingale,” and the present example would have proudly adorned the bowsprit of one of these vessels. A very similar Jenny Lind figurehead sold at Sotheby's in 2008 for $121,000, and other Lind figureheads reside in the Mariners' Museum (Virginia) and the Gladstone Maritime Museum (Central Queensland, Australia).

Circa 1855

Figurehead: 18" wide x 21" deep x 46 1/2" high
With base: 18" wide x 21" deep x 61" high
Jenny Lind Ship's Figurehead
Period: 19th Century
Origin: America
Type: Other
Depth: 21.0 Inches
Width: 18.0 Inches
Height: 61.0 Inches

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