An oval, slightly curved plaque with a profile relief of Nicolas Bowater from the steel general cargo ship Nicolas Bowater (1958).

Oval, slightly curved plaque from the bow of the SS 'Nicolas Bowater', a ship belonging to the Bowater Steamship Co. Ltd., all of which were named after family members. Plaques of this sort, though usually with some form of company logo or monogram rather than a portrait, are the modern equivalent of the traditional ship's figurehead. This one bears a low-relief, left-facing head profile of Nicolas (b.1943), then-schoolboy son of Sir Eric Bowater (1895 - 1962), a major paper manufacturer whose associated shipping line carried the raw materials and finished product. Above the portrait is the name 'NICOLAS' and below it 'BOWATER', with the artist signature and abbreviated date 'E. R. Bevan 57' in the traditional position for low-relief medallions etc., below the neck cut-off. While cast in bronze (now lacquered), the plaque was originally painted blue: a flange behind the visible rim is drilled for fixings. 'Nicolas Bowater' (7136 tons) was the company flagship, for carrying bulk newsprint paper. It was technically interesting in being steam-turbine powered, ready to manoeuvre from engine-start in just 40 minutes and able to be under full power within two hours: conventional merchant steamships usually took about 12 hours. The ship was built by Denny's of Dumbarton (Yard No. 1491) and went into service in 1958. It was sold in 1973 and the plaque probably removed at that time, then renamed and re-registered as 'Vall Comet', under the Liberian flag, until broken up in 1978.

The plaque is an unusual example of work by the Liverpool-born sculptor and teacher, Ernest Roland Bevan (1891-1979), who trained at Birmingham and the Royal Academy Schools, was a Fellow of the Royal Society of British Sculptors and taught modelling at the Central School of Arts and Crafts in the late 1940s and early 1950s. He exhibited 21 pieces at the Academy summer exhibitions between 1923 and 1957 (18 by 1951). As a long-time member of the Chelsea Arts Club (and its Chairman 1940-46), he derived quite a lot of decorative architectural work from contacts there and this may be a commission obtained through similar personal connections. Among his portrait busts, the best known (in three versions) is that of another Club member and friend, Sir Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of penicillin. The Museum also has plans of the 'Nicolas Bowater' and others of the Bowater fleet, in the Denny Collection; also a hull half-model (SLR1696) and various photographs, including 23 in a record album (ALB1123).

Object Details

ID: ZBA1721
Collection: Figureheads
Type: Plaque
Display location: Display - Neptune Court
Creator: Bevan, Ernest Rowland; Bevan, Ernest Roland
Vessels: Nicolas Bowater (1958)
Date made: 1957
People: Bowater SS Co Ltd, London; Bowater, Nicolas Charles Vansittart
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Measurements: Overall: 2400 x 1170 x 510 mm
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