• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 5887

    Maritime Art

    13 May 2009, London, South Kensington

  • Lot 721

    Antonio de Simone (Italian, fl.1877-1910)

    The steam yacht Alberta

    Price Realised  


    Antonio de Simone (Italian, fl.1877-1910)
    The steam yacht Alberta
    inscribed 'S.Y.Alberta' (lower left)
    16¾ x 26¾ in. (42.6 x 67.9 cm.)

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    Designed by the great G.L. Watson and built by the Ailsa Shipbuilding Co. at Troon in 1896, Alberta began her long life as Margarita, the second of three successive yachts with this name owned by the fabulously wealthy Philadelphia banker Mr. A.J. Drexel. Registered at 1,322 tons (Thames), she measured 252 feet in length with a 33 foot beam and sported a schooner rig on her two raked masts. Engined by Rowan of Glasgow, her twin screws gave her a cruising speed of 17 knots and her interior was sumptuously fitted out. After only two years however, Drexel began planning her successor and sold his second Margarita to Little & Johnston of London who, renaming her Alberta in 1899, then proceeded to manage her as the royal yacht of King Leopold II of Belgium until the latter's death in 1909. Sold again in 1912, to Mr. J.D. Cohn, this painting probably marks her maiden cruise under his ownership but after Cohn sold her in 1914, her career becomes more difficult to follow due to the Great War. Owned by F.G. Bourne from 1915-17, by 1918 she was apparently serving in the Russian Navy as the Razsvet until seized by the Royal Navy and put to work as a despatch vessel under the name of H.M.S. Surprise. Sold out of the service in 1923, she is then noted under several private and commercial owners but retaining her naval name of Surprise until she was rehired by the Navy in 1939 as an auxiliary patrol yacht. Despite being reportedly burnt and capsized at Lagos in 1942, she reappears after the War ended and was last listed as a yacht in 1950.

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