Historisk tidskrift 134:3 • 2014
Innehåll (Contents) 2014:3
Seglande halsgavelhus. Om skulpturer på flöjtskepp i Sverige och Nederländerna under tidigmodern tid
Floating neck-gable houses: On the sculptures of the fluyt in early modern Sweden and the Netherlands
Early Modern warships are sometimes compared to floating palaces. The sculptural decoration on their transoms, galleries and beakheads follow a carefully thought out symbolic language that aimed to legitimize royal ambitions and claims to power. But merchant ships also carried elegantly carved ornaments and figures. However, the message conveyed by these sculptures was different from that of contemporary warships.
Among early modern merchant ships the so-called fluyts hold a prominent position. Originating in the Netherlands, thousands of more or less identical ships were built during the 1600s and ensuing centuries. But despite the large number of ships built, surprisingly little information about their decoration has survived in our time. In recent years, several archaeological investigations of fluyts, have been carried out in the Baltic Sea which has resulted in new knowledge about the ships. It has been found that the decoration of the fluyts, just as on contemporary naval vessels, follow a clear pattern.
The ship´s home port was communicated by its city coat of arms. Ships’ names such as the White Swan, The Rose or Crescent as well as familiar characters from the Bible were also represented by sculptures on the ship´s transom. But the sculptures served not only a practical purpose. Like the contemporary warships, they expressed their owners’ ideology and societal ambitions. Fluyts should perhaps not be compared to floating palaces; they are rather a counterpart to the merchants’ neck-gabled houses in cities like Amsterdam.
In the Swedish context, the vessels appear as a kind of billboard for a Dutch attitude towards trade. This article aims to discuss the message communicated by the fluyts’ exteriors against this fond. How did these ships affect the urban environment in which they were moored?
Fluits, sculptures, Stockholm, the Netherlands, shipbuilding