James Henry Pullen Fantasy Boat

The State Barge or Fantasy Boat was the creation of James Henry Pullen (1835-1916), the Idiot Genius of Earlswood Asylum.

He was one of the earliest examples of Idiot Savant, with a unique talent for mechanical invention and still the only one recorded with this ability.


Royal Earlswood Museum James Pullen’s Fantasy Barge
Copyright: Image courtesy of Brian Wood

One of Pullen’s most imaginative works was the State Barge, which he perceived as a vessel from which Queen Victoria could rule her empire. Built in 1866, its hull is made of ebony, cosmic forces are represented on the exterior, ivory angels are in the prow with Satan subdued in the stern. The ivory came from tusks sent to Pullen by his patron, Edward VII.

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