A 19th century carved and polychromed wooden ship's figurehead from the bark Edinburgh
A 19th century carved and polychromed wooden ship's figurehead from the bark Edinburgh

JOHN ROGERSON (1837-1925); CIRCA 1883

Details
A 19th century carved and polychromed wooden ship's figurehead from the bark Edinburgh
John Rogerson (1837-1925); circa 1883
in oak and in the form of a woman, probably Lady Edinburgh, the ship's namesake and carefully carved in the round. Detailed with polychrome and paint, Her face with blushing cheeks, piercing eyes and red lips; her hair swept back and held together with a gold hair band, and continuing down her back. Atop her head is a simple crown of gold. Around her neck is a carved double necklace finished in gold leaf, as are the borders of her blue cape which is held together by a cameo at the front. The bodice of her tunic is engraved with an acanthus pattern over a long flowing gown in cream with a wide platinum ribbon border. She appears to be stepping out onto the edge of a scroll work billet head (reinforced with a later rectangular wood insert), a cresting wave, her foot, in a black shoe, protruding from below her gown. The back is notched for the stem, and a portion of the stem is stiil intact.
73 in. (185.4 cm.) height.
Provenance
Carved for the ship Edinburgh; 1883
William H. Allen, American Consul to Bermuda; 1909
Francis Turnbull Meyer; circa 1920
Addison Gallery of American Art at the Phillips Academy, Andover, Mass.; 1933
The present owner; 2002
Literature
Brewington, M.V., Shipcarvers of North America, Barre Publishing Co., Barre, Mass., 1962. Page 94 for an illustration of the figurehead, pages 95 and 98 for information about John Rogerson.

Hornung, Clarence, Treasury of American Design, Abrahms, Inc., Publishers, New York, 1976. Page 6 for an illustration of the piece, and page 7 for a description.
Sale room notice
Please note that the following sentence in the catalogue description should read as such, "She appears to be stepping out onto the edge of a scroll work billet head (reinforced with a later rectangular wood insert)".

Lot Essay

About the ship Edinburgh
The three masted barque Edinburgh was built in Quebec, Canada by William Charland in 1883. Christened by Lady Edinburgh, she was of Canadian registry but out of Glasgow, with an LOA of 223 ft and 1290 gross tons. Later, she was transferred to Italian registry, and from there it is unclear whether the ship or the figurehead was purchased by Mr. William Allen, the U.S. Consulate to Bermuda. Edinburgh was broken up in Bermuda in 1909.

John Rogerson (1837- 1925)
Born in Scotland in 1837, John Rogerson immigrated to the United States in 1849 at the age of twelve to join his father who was already living in Boston. Unfortunately, he arrived to find that his father had died, and moved to New Brunswick, Canada to live with his uncle. John Rogerson worked with his uncle, Edward Charters, for a short period of time before returning to Boston to work with John D. Fowle. Fowle was one of the best known of American ship carvers, and Rogerson worked with him for two years before returning to Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada, to start his own business as a ship carver. Energetic swirling drapery, exaggerated relief, and tightly bound hair are all characteristics of Rogerson's work. He was a member of The Saint Andrew's Society of Saint John, and the President's chair, which is used at dinners and other special functions, was carved by John Rogerson in 1908. He also carved the pulpit from St. David's Church, at the age of eighty four. In addition to the figurehead for the Edinburgh, he also carved figureheads for the Lady Edmonton and Marco Polo. In all of these examples the figurehead is not so much a portrait, as it is a personification of its vessel. John Rogerson retired as a ship carver in 1887 and went to work at the local customhouse. He died in 1925.
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