There are three other paintings of Flying Cloud by James Buttersworth (1817-1894). Although he never dated his work, he did produce an N. Currier lithograph of Flying Cloud in 1852, in partnership with Eliphalet M. Brown, Jr. (1816-1886). Brown was a potential rival who did a clipper ship, Comet, for N. Currier in the same year without Buttersworth. So at this early stage in Buttersworth’s career, he was fortunate that later in 1852 the talented Brown opted to follow Commodore Matthew Perry to the opening of Japan. This 20" x 30" oil on canvas, signed, brought $398,500.
Unsigned China trade portrait of the American clipper ship Comet, circa 1852, 27¼" x 36", with period “Chippendale” frame (not shown), $52,500. The Chinese gave us a chance to see ourselves as others see us.
This 12¼" x 18" oil on board by James Buttersworth may have had more to do with the structures in the background than the race. The Lime Rock Lighthouse at Newport, Rhode Island, is painted in minute detail and evokes the gallant career of Ida Lewis (1842-1911), the lighthouse keeper who famously rescued at least 18 people, and probably more, from drowning. It sold for $164,500.
This 89" long builder’s model displays every detail. It sold for $50,000. The S.S. Peru was built in 1892 at San Francisco’s Union Iron Works, founded in 1849 by the Donahues, Peter and James, fresh from Ireland. Later in life, the Peru ran from Marseilles, France to Oran, Algeria under name S.S. Lux. She foundered on that route in 1920 with a loss of 122 lives.
Henry Pember Smith (1854-1907), ship passing a lightship in moonlight, signed and dated 1878, oil on canvas, 12" x 15". The remarkable contrast between natural and electric light and the color and quality of the reflected light made it well worth $10,625. There should be more Henry Pember Smiths.
Antonio Jacobsen (1850-1921), the ship County of Edinburgh stranded on a beach, signed and dated 1902, oil on canvas, 18" x 30", $27,500. This was one of several Jacobsens in the auction. Although she ran aground at New Jersey’s Point Pleasant Beach in January 1900, she was quickly towed into deep water. After repairs, she was off to Shanghai in April 1900. Her career ended in 1916, wrecked on South Rock, County Down, Ireland. The New York Times offers prints in two sizes.
Bonhams, New York City
Photos courtesy Bonhams
In August 1977, Maine Antique Digest published an article on “The Hoboken School.” It noted that in the 19th century and beyond, the New Jersey town was home not only to the New York Yacht Club, but to Antonio Jacobsen and James Buttersworth as well. They dominated the world of marine art then and now.
Among the decorative arts offered at Bonhams’ marine arts auction on January 25 in New York City there was a desk set with dolphin inkwell and brass bell that brought $1250 (including buyer’s premium); a pocket watch stand with scrimshaw details and a pair of scrimshaw whale’s teeth for $4625; a 69" narwhal tusk at $16,250; and an 1882-89 logbook (with watercolors throughout) and an 1889 Tiffany trophy, both for the sloop yacht Gracie, for $27,500. Built on the Hudson River at Nyack, Gracie was eliminated in the America’s Cup trials of 1881 and 1885.
Among the maritime paintings were signed oils by the irresistible James Edward Buttersworth (1817-1894), in four grand lots:
• $74,500, Yacht Race with “Volunteer” in the Lead, 8" x 12"—she outsailed the Scottish yacht Thistle in 1887 to retain the America’s Cup;
• $100,900, Two schooner yachts off Sandy Hook with merchant brig, 14" x 22";
• $164,500, “Yachts returning from the race course: depicting the yacht Psyche leading the fleet past the breakwater in Newport, RI,” said the catalog, but see the illustration;
• $398,500, Clipper “Flying Cloud” coming out of a hurricane; see the illustration.
Plus there were oil paintings by the ubiquitous Antonio Jacobsen (1850-1921):
• the British America’s Cup challenger Genesta, 22" x 36", signed and dated 1885, $32,500;
• the British steamship Zacapa, 18" x 31¾", signed and dated 1912, $8125;
• the American steamship El Rio, 22" x 36", signed and dated 1897, $16,250;
• the British passenger liner City of Paris, a monumental 32" x 60", signed and dated 1889, $47,500;
• the ship County of Edinburgh stranded on a beach, 18"x 30", signed and dated 1902, $27,500
A 24½" x 36½" oil on canvas portrait of the New Jersey pilot boat Favorita #5, attributed to Conrad Freitag, did fetch $20,000. We published “About the Names of Boats, Pilot Boats in Particular” in M.A.D.’s January 2013 issue. It described how bold the choices were, but we know very little about Favorita. She was run down and sunk in 1865. There was a Donizetti opera, La Favorita, in 1840—too early; an Italian wine; and the cigar, circa 1915—too late. But there was the Brooklyn baseball club of that name, enrolled in the National Baseball Association in 1859. Perhaps.
Brig “Stephen Bishop” of Searsport [Maine], Captn. C.H. Gilkey – Leghorn, 1874 by Percy Sanborn (1849-1929), an 18" x 24" oil on canvas, got $11,875. At Keno Auctions, a couple of days earlier and a few blocks uptown, Sanborn’s 1876 oil of the clipper ship P.R. Hazeltine was passed (est. $8000/12,000). Go figure. (See “James Babbidge and Percy Sanborn: The Other Ship Portrait Painters of Penobscot Bay,” M.A.D., January 1986.)
Buyers did seem especially cautious, however. Paintings by these fine names elicited no winning bids:
Of the noteworthy Englishmen, their works received mixed results as well:
One unsigned oil with a certain contemporary pertinence and historical appeal appeared in the form of the steam launch Creedmoor. In 1872 the National Rifle Association bought 70 acres of land in Queens, New York, from a farmer named Creed, and it was transformed into an important venue for NRA shooting competitions The launch Creedmoor, possibly, picked up visitors arriving by steamboat on Long Island Sound and brought them to land on Little Neck Bay to be taken by carriage to the range. There was a railroad as well. In 1910 the property, buildings, and hotel were sold to the Brooklyn State Hospital, and the facility grew into the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center, now located on Winchester Boulevard in Queens Village. The 15" x 29" painting was passed (est. $2500/3500).
For more information, contact Bonhams at (212) 644-9001; Web site (www.bonhams.com).
Originally published in the May 2013 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2013 Maine Antique Digest