Ship decorations at the Paris Musée de la Marine

Charlemagne, from the Real de France

The head of Charlemagne, from the ship Réal de France, built in 1694. He
makes a noble, striking figure at something like 5 feet tall, and it’s difficult
to believe he’s over 300 years old

La Reale de France stern La Réale de France fighting figures La Réale de France naval officer

La Réale de France stern, fighting figures, and a naval officer

Amphitrite figurehead from the Amphitrie, 1810 Figurehead of Brennus, from a cuirassée of the same name 1899

Figureheads. Amphitrite, goddess of the sea, from the French ship Amphitrie built
in 1810 – she should have been a mermaid!. Gaul leader Brennus from 1899

Figurehead of Napoleon from the Iéna, 1846 Figurehead of Napoleon from the Iéna, 1846

Figurehead of Napoleon from the Iéna, 1846

More photos from the Musée de la Marine in Paris.

The pomp and circumstance surrounding fighting ships of the past is astonishing to behold. They’re ornaments as well as instruments of war – and what ornaments! What these shots don’t really show is the scale of these carvings – Napoleon, for example was massive – the distance from his waist to the top of his head must have been six feet or so.

It’s striking to us Brits that the disgraced autocratic ruler Napoleon should be so honoured decades after his death. Someday I must learn something about the mysteries of history of France!

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