Rare Vintage Folk Art Carved Ships Mermaid. She is hard carved and painted. The paint is worn and gives a charming feel to this piece. Mermaids, as it happens, are typically topless, so using a mermaid figurehead on the prow of a ship pacified the sea gods, assured good weather and pointed a safe way back to port. Many sailors still use these figureheads today, as a nod to tradition. Originally from a new England estate.