Figurehead of the HMS Eurydice

Basic Information

Figurehead type
Figurehead of the HMS Eurydice
Vessel name
HMS Eurydice
Type (Naval/Merchant)
Copyright owner
© National Museum of the Royal Navy
Copyright notes
Photo: © National Museum of the Royal Navy
Current location
National Museum of the Royal Navy, Portsmouth
Location date

Physical Information

The figurehead is that of Eurydice, wife of the musician Orpheus. Tragically, Eurydice was bitten by a snake and died. Her distraught husband followed her to the underworld where Hades, its ruler, told Orpheus his wife could return to him—on one condition. He must not look back until he reached the mortal world. Orpheus was just about to reach the open air when he could not resist the urge to look back at his wife, breaking his promise to Hades and loosing Eurydice forever. The figurehead’s pose is that of Eurydice reaching out to her husband in longing and despair. The figure is loosely draped in a blue and red tunic revealing her breasts. The tunic is secured with a brooch. In the original design by Hellyer an imp was carved on the trailboard, almost pulling her to the Underworld. Below the imp a snake is carved slithering down the bow. The trailboard carvings did not survive.
Date made
Place made
Portsmouth Dockyard
Object history
Designed by J. E. Hellyer in 1843 for the sum of £18.0.0. Presumably removed when the ship was salvaged and broken up in 1878. Now part of the Portsmouth Collection.
Vessel history
HMS 'Eurydice' was built and launched from Portsmouth Dockyard in May 1843. This 6th rate, 24 gun vessel, saw service in the White Sea in conflict with Russia and as a training ship in the West Indies. On her last voyage back from the West Indies, on 24th March 1878, 'Eurydice' was struck by harsh weather off the coast of the Isle of Wight and capsized, killing almost all of her 330 crew members. The vessel then remained submerged until after several attempts when she was finally raised. Due to the amount of damage the ship had incurred it was not deemed salvageable and was transported to Portsmouth and broken up. (More detailed notes of how the ship was raised in The Star ‘The Eurydice Operations’ Thursday, July 18, 1978).
David Pulvertaft ‘The Warship Figureheads of Portsmouth’ (Stroud, 2009) p.64.
BBC website. British Library 19th Century Newspapers. (see notes for details).
Admiralty Catalogue(1911) No 344

Ownership Information

Owner type
Public Institution
Owner name
National Museum of the Royal Navy
Contact details
National Museum of the Royal Navy, HM Naval Base (PP66), Portsmouth PO1 3NH
Ownership can be cited online
Accessible to public
Data verified by owner
Date verified

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