Ahoy! Nautical Art and Artifacts Highlighted On The Curator’s Eye

  • NEW YORK, New York
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  • August 13, 2013

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William R. Davis, “Sunset on the Banks,” oil on canvas. For more information, visit www.curatorseye.com

As the summer beach and sailing season winds down, The Curator’s Eye (www.CuratorsEye.com) highlights a stunning offering of nautical, marine, and coastal art and artifacts. From hand-carved scrimshaw, to paintings by the likes of James Buttersworth, to shipboard instruments, the continuous online exhibition of notable objects on The Curator's Eye affords dedicated collectors a unique opportunity to surf the best of nautical art.


The offering begins with an extremely rare and important polychrome scrimshaw whale tooth, attributed to the work of whaleman George Hiliott. One side displays a wonderful detailed engraving of a formally dressed woman, while the other has a Polynesian scene depicting a grass skirt-clad man and woman, palm trees, and a whaling scene. The crispness and detail of the engraving is exceptional, and both scenes are typical of Hiliott's signed scrimshaw work.

Ship Models

Also typical of nautical life is an exotic wood, baleen and ivory prisoner-of-war model ship with retracting cannons. Created circa 1810, this medium-size model is of the highest quality and is made of a wonderful blend of materials. With magnificent carving, accurate deck fitting, and remarkably complete rigging, this model of “Minerve” is one of the finest and highest quality prisoner-of-war models, complete with 34 retracting brass cannons. The "Minerve" was originally part of the Portuguese Navy, was captured by the French in 1809, and fought against the British Royal Navy in the Battle of Grand Port in 1810.

Anchor-form Clock and Barometer, circa 1890. For more information, visit www.curatorseye.com

A more recent entry in the tradition of miniature ship building is Phillip S. Reed's Ship Model "Majestic.” Serving as the subject of Reed's 2000 book, Modelling Sailing Men-of-War, and at a scale of 3/32”, this is a detailed model of the British 74-gun ship launched at Deptford in 1785. The “Majestic” took part in the Battle of the Nile in 1798. For the last twelve years Reed has dedicated his life to full-time, professional model making and now concentrates almost exclusively on historic sailing ships such as this one.

Marine Paintings

The Yacht Race, an oil painting from 1874 by Antonio Jacobsen (1850-1921), is a rare and wonderful example of the Jacobsen’s work at the beginning of his artistic career in America. The scene features two schooners from the New York Yacht Club, which was celebrating its thirtieth anniversary when The Yacht Race was created. Jacobsen’s talent is evident in his attention to detail and his handling of the water; his work holds both drama and elegance. Born in Copenhagen to a Danish violinmaker, he would become one of America’s most renowned and successful marine artists. In 1880, Jacobsen and his wife moved to Hoboken, where their home became a mecca for seafarers and artists, including fellow marine artist James E. Buttersworth.

Perhaps one year prior, circa 1873, Buttersworth created one of his own oil paintings of racing yachts, also probably from the New York Yacht Club. This rare large canvas depicts an active yacht race with an incoming squall. The yacht to the left is “Cornelia,” heeling towards the viewer, and to the right is the famous yacht “Magic” on a windward tack. The crew are scurrying around the deck pulling in the jib and lowering and furling the mainsail, and like many of Buttersworth’s finer works the painting is very atmospheric with the dark clouds creating an ominous sense of bad weather approaching. Between the two yachts is the red buoy appearing in many Buttersworth racing scenes: Buoy 8 1/2 off New York Harbor.

Prisoner-of-war Model Ship “Minerve,” circa 1810. For more information, visit www.curatorseye.com

Joining these works is a remarkable small oil painting of Sailing Vessels Off Capri by Albert Bierstadt. In the late spring and summer of 1857, Bierstadt visited Southern Italy with Sanford Robinson Gifford and painted an extensive series of studies of this particular coastline. As can be seen in this striking painting, Bierstadt used aerial perspective, dramatic light effects and reduced the visibility of his brushstrokes to create a poetic atmosphere which envelops the viewer of the painting. The spectacular white sails of the boats cut across the brilliant blues of the sea and the sky. The sophisticated simplicity of the composition marks this as a masterpiece by one of America's great master painters.

A contemporary coastal painting by Massachusetts artist William R. Davis, titled Sunset on the Banks, joins the works of past masters. Davis, who works en plein air, is a pre-eminent contemporary marine artist in the United States. Inspired by art history, Davis poured over maritime paintings from the 18th and 19th centuries and developed technical skills while achieving his own artistic style. He is attracted to the luminous nature of sunrise and sunset, painting them with passion. As a result, works such as this one are among the artist's most dramatic and striking works.

Also available is a wonderful oil portrait portraying a confident and dashing English Naval Commander, sword in hand, with his ship in the background. It is fitted in a carved and gilded period frame, probably the original. This same painting, attributed to Francis Wheatley, was the subject of an article in the Antique Collectors Guide, February 1988, entitled “Anonymous Faces.” A signature work by British nautical painter Montague Dawson, The Sentinel, rounds out the offering of marine paintings.

Shipboard Artifacts

Articles of shipboard life include a ship's chronometer, circa 1870, by London maker Ja. Hatton. The eight day movement is set into a deep brass case with a sliding disk at the bottom with the engraving "Wind To The Left Hand Once A Week." This instrument retains its original fancy rosewood two-tiered box its original blue steel hands with pierced pointers.

As well, an antique anchor-form clock and barometer, probably English circa 1890, is available for the nautical enthusiast. This wonderful desk compendium is comprised of a clock (with eight-day movement), an aneroid barometer, a thermometer and a small ships' wheel with the day and date displayed on a black granite base.

Finally, a unique whaling journal written while on a cruise from New Bedford to the Pacific Ocean between 1836 and 1839 completes the extensive nautical offering. Composed and collected by Francis Harrison while aboard the ship “Golconda,” the journal includes whale stamps, whaling songs, lists of whales and vessels encountered, as well as outstanding drawings of the ship and of New York City.

The Curator’s Eye is the distinctive online platform for the finest art and antiques from distinguished dealers around the world. To view more exceptional nautical, marine, and coastal art and artifacts from across the globe, visit www.CuratorsEye.com.

Leah Tharpe
The Curator's Eye, LLC

The Curator's Eye, LLC
About The Curator's Eye, LLC

A scholarly online exhibition connecting museums, collectors, and dealers with the finest art and antiques available on the market.

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