Figurehead of the HMS Implacable

Basic Information

Figurehead type
Figurehead of the HMS Implacable
Vessel name
HMS Implacable (ex- Duguay-Trouin)
Type (Naval/Merchant)
Copyright owner
© National Maritime Museum
Copyright notes
Photo: © National Maritime Museum
Current location
On display in Neptune Court, NMM
Location date

Physical Information

Black-and-white painted and gilded bust-length figurehead of HMS 'Implacable', ex- 'Duguay-Trouin', representing a Gorgon from Greek Mythology, with snakes for hair.
Date made
Place made
H233.7 x W96.5 x D147.3 cms
Wood; Lead Paint
Object history
The figurehead was removed from HMS 'Implacable' before she was scuttled and presented to the NMM by the Admiralty in 1950. The figurehead has mostly been on display in various locations in the Museum and for some time outside near the restaurant. The carved work of the transom remained crated-up in store for half a century until reassembled and displayed on the south wall of the new Neptune Court in 1998-99.
Vessel history
A 74-gun, third-rate was built at Rochefort in 1800 and was one of four such French vessels that escaped from the Battle of Trafalgar, 21 October 1805, only to be captured in November, in the Bay of Biscay, by a squadron under Sir Richard Strachan. 'Duguay-Trouin' was taken into the Navy and renamed 'Implacable'. The ship was originally named after a celebrated French 17th-century corsair commander. The subject of figurehead is appropriate for her new British name. 'Implacable' became a training ship in 1855 and in 1912 was lent to Geoffrey Wheatly-Cobb to become the 'Foudroyant' boys' training vessel at Portsmouth. In the late 1920s and 1930s work began, supported by the NMM's founding benefactor Sir James Caird, to try and preserve her alongside the 'Victory', both as the last French ship from Trafalgar and the last '74'. The outbreak of the Second World War stopped this and after 1945 the ship was judged past repair in the post-war economic situation of both Britain and France (to whom it was offered). In 1949 Caird paid £300 to have the figurehead and gingerbread work of the transom removed and shipped to the Museum and, with English and French colours flying side-by-side, the vessel was ceremoniously towed into the Channel and sunk with explosives.
David Pulvertaft 'Figureheads Of The Royal Navy'(Seaforth, 2011) p.217

Ownership Information

Owner type
Public Institution
Owner name
National Maritime Museum
Contact details
Royal Museums Greenwich, London SE10 9NF
Ownership can be cited online
Accessible to public
Data verified by owner
Date verified

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