A three-masted ship under sail
Print. A port-broadside view of a full-rigged late-15th-century Mediterranean cargo ship, almost certainly Italian, of the type often called a 'carrack' in northern Europe at that time and by historians today. ' Nave' or 'nave rotunda' (round ship) was the more usual general Italian contemporary term. The print is probably Venetian and the ship may also be, though the St George cross on the flags -if more than generally Christian import- may signify it is Genoese. The rig comprises bowsprit, foremast and foresail, mainmast and topmast both with their respective sails and a lateen-rigged mizzen with the sail furled as the vessel runs before the wind on a moderate sea. There are fighting 'tops' on both fore- and mainmast for the vessel's defence if necessary. The main topsail is a little unusual in being an inverted triangular shape rather than square and the standing rigging follows Mediterranean contemporary practice in having no ratlines (ascent being up the mast by ladder, though none is shown). A bowline leads forward from the port leech of the mainsail to the bowsprit and the vessel and a bowge (central sheet) ties the centre of its foot to the mast. There is a deck-house aft on the poop, above the centre-line rudder, and the upper works of the hull have both horizontal and vertical strengthening wales.
This is the only known copy of this print, which - while not the earliest image of a full-rigged three-master - is so far (2016) the earliest known print of a Mediterranean round ship so rigged. The rig had emerged by about 1420, probably in Spain, from combination of north-European single-masted square rig and use of the centreline rudder, with Mediterranean one-, two- and three-masted lateen rig, using lateral steering oars. The result was the full-rigged oceanic sailing ship which enabled the age of European world exploration from the 1480s on and which, in essence, only saw further design advances in the later 19th century.
Date: circa 1470
Original dimensions: Mount: 198 mm x 138 mm
- Image reference: PU7170
- National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
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