Figurehead of a 'Druid'

Signed and dated lower right by the artist. This very competent technical study was presented to the NMM by a London dealer (Sabin), probably as something of specialist interest but of little commercial value. Previous record assumed that the ship of which head is shown was a Royal Naval one called 'Druid' - though only from the appearance of the figure, which is reinforced by the 'dolmen' (one stone supported on two uprights) on the trailboard behind. If so it would have to be the 46-gun 'Druid' launched at Pembroke Dock in 1825 but it might also be the head of a merchant vessel and there is no identifying inscription other than the signature and date. A 'bard' might be an alternative possibility hinting at a Welsh name for the ship, since the figure also appears to be carrying pan-pipes in its left hand. The drawing itself is possibly also a unique survival, being either by the wife or the eldest daughter of the marine artist William John Huggins. Given the date and immaturity of the signature the daughter seems more likely, and the competence suggests Huggins taught all his children to draw, not just his two artist sons, James and John. In 1834 Berthia (1809-84) married Huggins's younger artistic collaborator Edward Duncan RWS (1803-82), whose father Thomas had earlier taught Huggins himself. The spelling of 'Berthia' also confirms that the 'Berthier' or 'Bretha' variants sometimes found in public registry records are incorrect. There is a copy letter from a Huggins descendant, Mrs Joan Pamm, dated 1951, in the old NMM Print Room files which says that 'Berthia' was a traditional name in the family (and it was certainly that of Huggins's wife); also that such family papers as she knew of were at some point destroyed, rather limiting future biographical research possibilities. [PvdM 3/04: amended 2/12, 7/18 and 10/19]

Object Details

ID: PAF6203
Type: Drawing
Display location: Not on display
Creator: Huggins, Berthia
Vessels: Druid (1825)
Date made: 1826
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Measurements: Sheet: 279 x 390 mm; Mount: 405 mm x 557 mm

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