This figurehead depicts the bust of a Grecian noblewoman wearing a gold leaf coronet. Painted white, her tunic is trimmed with gold on the neckline and she wears a gold bangle. Her right hand crosses her chest and a tendril of hair falls over her left shoulder. Beautifully carved, it reflects the sleek elegance of the Irish Star vessel which it adorned.
Figureheads, carved wooden sculptures which ornamented the bow of a sailing ship, embodied the ‘soul’ of the vessel and were believed to offer the crew protection and safe passage on the seas. They were also used to identify a ship, reflecting its function or paying tribute to a person connected with the vessel. The figurehead is an evocative relic from South Australia’s most infamous shipwreck - the ‘Star of Greece' - which sunk off Port Willunga on 13 July, 1888. It is connected with a tragedy that instigated major reforms in maritime safety in the colony.