The American ship "Excelsior" arriving at Liverpool at sunset, circa 1850, by Duncan McFarlane. The painting depicts the ship "Excelsior" approaching Liverpool harbor and the Perch Rock Lighthouse and Fort, a background that appears in many of his paintings. Like all of McFarlane's paintings the detail is exceptional. The black hull with painted false gunports is shown on its port side with its crisp billethead below a decorative vine-like bow decoration and the bow mounted quarterboard with the name "Excelsior" in gold lettering. Standing just forward of the anchor is a formally dressed top-hatted figure standing at attention keeping watch while standing on the rear cabin is another top-hatted formally dressed master pointing with his right hand and holding a telescope in his left, another typical element common to McFarlane's work. Tied to the "Excelsior" is a small sailing craft with a crew member furling the bow sail one more additional element appearing in several of McFarlane's canvases. The spars, sails and rigging are extremely well detailed and the vessels white and red banner is flying from the peak of the main mast with the name "Excelsior" painted backwards in black. The green painted sea has a range of tones with white highlights at the crest of the waves. There are several sail and steam subsidiary vessels to the right and left of the canvas. The painting has a brilliant sunset sky with the sun and its rays emanating from the clouds above the fort creating a very dramatic effect not commonly seen in McFarlane's works. McFarlane's paintings appear on the market much less frequently indicating that he was not prolific. With few exceptions most of McFarlane's paintings like this one measure 24 x 36 inches. (PA-983)
Reference 1: "Samuel Walters-Marine Artist Fifty Years of Sea, Sail, & Steam" by A.S. Davidson, published in Great Britain by Jones-Sands Publishing, 1992: Coventry, page 109. The only other painting we have observed by McFarlane featuring a sunset sky is illustrated in color depicting the American Blockade Runner steamboat "Let Her Rip" which was once in the collection of India House in New York.
Reference 2: "Across the Western Ocean: American Ships by Liverpool Artists" by Daniel Finamore, published by the Peabody Essex Museum Collections, Volume 131, Number 1, 1995: page 20. "In connection with his work, he seems to have developed very good ties with visiting American shipmasters , perhaps by personal recommendations or referrals. ... Characteristically his ships "loom large" and he is fond of depicting a top-hatted master peering through a spyglass."
Reference 3: "Flying the Colors: The Unseen Treasures of Nineteenth-Century American Marine Art" by Alan Granby and Janice Hyland, published by Mystic Seaport: 2009, page 323. This page illustrates the McFarlane painting of the American Ship "City of Montreal" which is signed D. McFarlane, lower left, circa 1853 coming into Liverpool with the Perch Rock Lighthouse and Fort to the right in a very similar fashion as it appears in the painting described above. Additionally an almost identical small craft is tied up to the "City of Montreal" featuring the same colors, sail configuration and figures as is the small boat pulled up to the ship "Excelsior."
Provenance: This painting has hung in a private collection on a private island off the coast of Maine since the 1930s.
Note 1: Excelsior, pictured off Perch Rock, was built in Damariscotta, ME. (my "home territory"!) by James Day in 1849. burthen of 999 81/90 tons. 168 ' length, 36' beam, and 17' draft. The owners were S[Samuel].Thompson & Nephew, of Pearl St. NYC until 1845, then firm became S. Thompson's Nephews. Their ships were part of the Black Star Line, offering packet service between Liverpool and New York. Records show she was well maintained, and she was still sailing after 1874, when she was sold to Swedish owners for coastal trade under the name "Joanna."
She had a number of Captains:
Charles K. Crocker, 1849-1858. (a Capt. Wadley made one voyage in 1856)
John D. Swift, 1858- 1864
Capt. Pendleton, 1864-1874
Information provided by Joanie Ingrham Research Assistant at The Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA.
Condition of painting: The painting retains a wax lining from several years ago and only has a small amount of scattered in-paint. The painting has recently been cleaned by Yost Restoration and a small amout of repaint.
Condition of frame: The painting has a 19th century style compo based frame with a 23K gold leaf surface with a fluted cove pattern.
Dimensions of painting: Height 24 1/4, Width 36 inches.