Warships of the 1600s were floating art exhibitions with decorations and woodwork without equal in the history of European art. The over 1000 carved sculptures and ornaments of the Vasa are part of the biggest collection in the world.

Today we see Vasa's carvings in dim, dark shades of brown, but when the ship was new, it was bursting with an array of clear, bright colors. It was intended to impress - splendor and extravagance were the foremost expressions of money and power in the 1600s.
And for people in what was then an otherwise image-poor world, Vasa must have appeared as something utterly unique.

On the stern we find some of the most emotive sculptures and motifs on the ship.
Between the large windows facing the cabin, we find the Royal Coat Of Arms and the ship’s name, in the form of an elegant shield supported by two plump cherubs and adorned with the wheat sheaf (vase in Swedish), the heraldic symbol of the king’s family.
The cherubs are holding an olive branch in one hand and are flanked by luxuriant festoons of fruit, symbols of peace and prosperity.

On the transom above the ship’s name sits the Swedish National Coat Of Arms, supported by two huge lions. In the center shield, we see again the Vasa sheaf, symbolizing the Royal family's legitimate claim to rule the country.

At the very top of the stern is the Crest, a large, arched sculpture with the image of a boy. The boy, has long, flowing hair and is flanked by two large griffins holding the Royal Crown over his head. Just below are the letters G A R S, for Gustavus Adolphus Rex Sueciae (Gustav Adolf King of Sweden). The young man is Gustav Adolf, , here shown as a young boy, most likely 10 years old. By forming the crest of the stern in this way, it was expressed to the world that already as boy, Gustav Adolf was the, legitimate heir to the Swedish throne. It issues a direct challenge to Sigismund of Poland. Gustav Adolf was making it clear that he was the rightful king of Sweden, in spite of Sigismund’s claim to the throne.