Vessel ornamentation has been practised for thousands of years and over a vast geographical area. Unsurprisingly, the type of carvings and their purpose vary considerably from place to place and their style, form and subject matter have changed significantly over time. This article focuses on the ship carvings of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Britain, and more specifically it investigates those who produced them. Classified as neither sculptors nor shipbuilders, ship carvers in Britain, both in the past and in more recent times, have been denied the appreciation that their unique and specialized art deserves. This article addresses the apparent difficulty that exists in classifying ship carvers and the carvings they produced. By examining how the carvers were trained and how work was commissioned and executed, the article investigates how these carvers were perceived by their contemporaries and how they fit into the broader historical context of the period.
This article is published open access under a CC BY licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/uk/).