A Wonderful Pair of c.1800 Carved Oak Sailor's Farewell Figures


Origin: British
Period: Late Eighteenth / Early Nineteenth Century
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1770-1810
Width: 3.75 inches / 3 inches (at widest points)
Height: 9.5 inches / 9 inches (the figures)
Height of The Wholes: 11.5 inches / 11 inches

The male and female carved depictions of a sailor and his sweetheart in period dress, each on an associated oak plinth, the sailor with his hands clasped to his chest in sorrow, the lady looking forlorn with an anchor to her feet, symbolising hope, and one of her hands in exclamation survive from the turn of the eighteenth to nineteenth centuries.

The figures have flat backs and have a superb deep rich patina and colour, are beautifully tactile, and do not suffer from any worm or infestation. They are unrepaired and unrestored and were probably mounted on the associated plinths some time in the Victorian period. There is no damage to report apart from two sections of loss to the anchor.

The Sailor’s farewell was a popular theme for artwork during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries with depictions appearing on anything from glass rolling pins, pearlware, Sunderland lusterware and Staffordshire groups, with scenes printed on a variety of bowls, jugs and plaques. Three-dimensional carved figures such as these though are few and far between, and we cannot find any record of others having been sold in recent times.

“When my time is over Haul away for heaven - haul away for heaven God be by my side
It's our time to go now Haul away your anchor - haul away your anchor ‘Tis our sailing time.’ – Sailor’s Farewell Hymn

The traditional farewell (of a mariner is wishing a friend or loved one "fair winds and following seas" whilst also to be considered a Naval blessing as well as a farewell. "We bid shipmates farewell with this naval blessing because it represents the ideal underway conditions for which Sailors yearn." It is also said for a departed mariner at a funeral.

These are rather special, rare and decorative pieces of maritime and social history and as such are quite significant; though their provenance is a mystery the romance that the two figures depicted here clearly shared has been safely captured and preserved forever.