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Sultana figurehead discussion


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Greetings all. So as I sloooooowly chip away at Sultana I've been thinking a lot of the questionable figurehead provided with the kit. Naturally I want to replace it with something I make from scratch however I am aware that the admiralty plans did not include a diagram of what the figurehead looked like and the only information I have read says that the figurehead was a beautifully carved woman.... which was then likely removed after purchase by the royal navy. This does not explain much and I'm hoping that someone might know of some sort of written description either first person source or even someone's extrapolation to help me surmise what the figurehead possibly looked like.  Any thoughts or directions towards sources would be appreciated. I've so far looked through Chappelle's books and also the Harold Hahn Colonial Schooner book but he doesn't give much discussion to Sultana's appearance more the history. I would actually love to see more pics of Hahn's Colonial Diorama as the Sultana model looks like it has a figurehead and I trust his judgement on the matter.

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Here's some pics of the figurehead from the kit. For it's size it isn't awful but I would like to try something a bit more detailed looking. Additionally I have Chuck's very nicely done figurehead with Sculpey off the practicum and the replica in Delaware. This is figurehead just doesn't strike me as being accurate honestly I would imagine something a bit more... graceful? Ok fine I hate it lol. And last is a recently posted pic of the model from the Hahn diorama.

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Edited by CharlieZardoz
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Yes I agree and I expect at some point ill start to make a collection of such available alacart pieces and modify the detailing. The other option would be to try something via computer (3d printing perhaps?) but other than just use my imagination I am curious if a description of the original was ever documented (which I imagine unlikely) or at the very least some experts came up with some educated guesses like with Hahn's model. If not I will likely just follow the same route Chuck took as I really like that approach best but it's little things like placement of the hands or ornamental details that I am curious about. I have to assume something is known otherwise why would we know it was a woman? But if I can't find that description anywhere well then I'll just have to use my imagination which could be fun but even then I'd like a few historical similar figureheads off merchant type turned military vessels of the period with which to model off of. :)

Edited by CharlieZardoz
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I'm imagining that coming from colonial America she would have looked pretty but common, not a mythical figure or something royal. The arms would either be to the side or crossed not outstretched or they would break easily and I would assume clothed in something bard-like but maybe I'm totally off.  Something like a Jenny Lind except she hadn't been born yet! :D

Edited by CharlieZardoz
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Your first attempt at carving will probably go in the scrap box, as will your second or third. But don't be discouraged; your skills will rapidly improve with experience. I've found that making a maquette of modelling clay first helps sort out problems in 3D much better than 2D sketches. If really desperate and you've the budget for it, commission a carving!

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Haha I have a few friends who I'm sure would love doing that mr frolick! ;) But yes learning to carve is going to be a lot of fun, though this tiny 2 centimeter figure is going to be a challenge. Still I'd love to seek out what history exists if any so I at least have an idea of what a period figurehead from the 18th century colonial era might have looked like. Perhaps ill contact the Sultana society and see what they know if anything ;)

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On a more boring note, making an original figure head is a laudable goal, but I would recommend a couple of intermediate steps to greatly improve the learning curve--

 

First, do some rough sketches.  No Davinci stuff required here, if you can draw a hull plan or even mark planks for spiling, you have the required skills to draw schematic figures with the basic pose and proportions. Work with just a front and side view. Start larger than your final scale--5 or even 10x bigger.  Work on tracing paper so you can trace over what you have right and redo the parts you don't like yet.  When you have the basic proportions, use photo reference details of faces, hair, hands, props, etc.  (you can use a similar technique for your carving pattern, reduce your large drawing to scale and it will look awesome.) 

 

Second, get some Sculptey from a craft store, make a simple aluminum wire armature, and do some quick maquettes, still working in large scale.  Does it look right?  Scale it down to your final size and make another quick model.  Does it still look right? Why or why not?

 

At some point, the 'roughs' will turn into 'keepers' and you still haven't used up any boxwood.   :)

 

 Most figures I've seen aren't let down by carving technique or lack of detail, but by proportion and basic anatomy.  Eyes are in the middle of the head, nose bisects eye-line and chin, mouth halfway between...elbows end at bottom of ribcage, wrists aprox. at hips, etc...   Limbs bend only at certain angles, and only at joints. ("rubber arms" are a frequent sculpt error, especially in small scale)  

 

I hope this helps, I look forward to seeing this develop!

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Oh dear what mischief have I started! ;) Well back to the topic at hand I did speak with the Sultana foundation and they said they modeled their figurehead based on a Sultan concubine. This of course makes sense though it makes me wonder if the HMS Halifax had a horse figurehead because Halifax was known for horse breeding perhaps? So yes these two pics are sort of what I am going to use for inspiration and well see how it turns out as I have some research to do now :)

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Ok so daves most kindly posted some pics on the figurehead off of Hahn's model of Sultana and what I see is a figure placed in very similar arrangement to the replica in Delaware, the arm placement etc.  Don't want to reinvent the wheel just work off a model that seems logical so I think I will go in that direction and eventually would like to visit the diorama in Virginia and get some closer pics of Hahn's model. Here is what she looks like and as far as how detailed I can make her well that's going to take some researching as well but at least now I can put my mind at rest on a few questions and get back to widdling. ;)

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For those of us who are not yet at the skill level of carving a full figure, I would suggest looking at available scale figures as a starting point. You could at a minimum use the head and torso, using some type of material to build up the clothing.

 

For the Sultana, 1/64th scale figures are available from the model railroad suppliers (a limited availability in this scale). If you wanted a smaller figure head 1/72nd figures are available on a more limited basis in the model airplane and military armor suppliers (you may have to buy a plane or vehicle kit just for the figures. For a larger than life figurehead, 1/48th scale model railroad figures are also available.

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The painting is that of Rogatyn Roksolana who live during the 1500s during the reign of Suleiman I. Picking her as inspiration is pure preference however I would have to imagine that any colonial woodworkers intending to build a figurehead of a Sultans concubine would quite likely have gotten their inspiration from something historical and she was in her time an educated and powerful woman who achieve some fame. Plus the painting seems somewhat eurocentric and idealic which id assume some moderately educated colonial merchantman would have probably thought in terms of her looks rather than an accurate representation of a woman of that time in the Ottoman empire. :)

Edited by CharlieZardoz
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Awesome job so far, Charlie! I often wondered what the name Sultana referred to.

 

I could be wrong, but as far as I remember, The Sultana (feminine noun of 'sultan') was the #1 wife of the Sultan.  He had other concubines but she (and her children) took precedence over the rest.

Edited by overdale
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  • 2 weeks later...

Just a thought - an 18th century American would have had very little accurate idea of what a Sultana looked like. Anything exotic would probably have been good enough - possible involving flowing garments and some kind of turban?

 

Possibly something like the first and third ladies at http://thestreetballet.tumblr.com/post/57090904732/asianhistory-question-asks-hi-mrms-mod (warning - the second lady is NSFW) 

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Yep exactly! The Roxsolana painting or the first and second paintings in the list you mentioned are examples of what I would imagine a carpenter would have considered. Something they might have seen in a contemporary painting probably of the baroque or medieval style. The third painting yes though it was painted in the 1800's so after Sultana was built.  

Edited by CharlieZardoz
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