Russian traditional ship sculpture
The tradition to decorate ships with sculpture goes back to hoary antiquity. Militant sailors, seeking to crush the morale of the enemy even before the battle, attached to the stem heads of ferocious monsters, and unseen dragons. They were so frightening that, upon return to their harbor, not wanting to frighten the relatives, sailors covered the sculptures with deflated sail. Ship noses were decorated with carved wooden figures of animals, birds, and each had a certain meaning. For example, standing on back paws lion symbolized courage, grandeur and generosity. And preparing to jump leopard meant courage. A rapidly running horse symbolized power and speed; bull – fertility and prosperity; wing-spread Eagle – power and insight; bantam-cock – readiness for battle; and fish – vigilance. Brightly painted and even covered with gold leaf, flying over the waves figures were pride of ship. And only most experienced sailors could care for them. Their daily duty included daily cleaning them from sea salt, washing, and tinting. Besides, captured in the ship fights sculptures considered a valuable trophy. In honor of the victory, these sculptures, attached to a specially built triumphal column, dubbed the rostral (from the Latin word rostrum – the nose of the ship).
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