• Fine American Paintings, Drawi auction at Christies

    Sale 2285

    Fine American Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture

    4 March 2010, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 141

    James Edward Buttersworth (1817-1894)

    A View of Nassau in the Bahamas

    Price Realised  


    James Edward Buttersworth (1817-1894)
    A View of Nassau in the Bahamas
    signed 'J E Buttersworth' (lower right)
    oil on panel
    8½ x 17 in. (21.6 x 43.2 cm.)

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    As Rudolf J. Schaefer says of this work's possible companion [color plate XII]:

    'JEB's mastery of painting the sky as the source of light is well illustrated in this beautiful painting. Superb delicacy in tone variations and contrasts create the luminosity and make the sky a masterpiece in itself. The ship, the shoreline and all else provide the artful depth and perspective.'

    Apart from the inclusion of the two other U.S. vessels of substance in the right foreground of the work offered here, the fact that the frigate is wearing American colors is strongly suggestive that it post-dates Schaefer XII which depicts a British frigate in port profile. It seems unlikely that Buttersworth ever visited Nassau or the Bahamas and he appears to have taken his inspiration from a fine surveying profile executed by Commander G.B. Lawrence, R.N., in 1841. As a British overseas possession, it would be far more likely to find a British frigate cruising there and hence the original scene. Later, perhaps following the successful sale of the earlier view, JEB turned to the same familiar backdrop on which to incorporate his American frigate arriving off Nassau and calling for the pilot, as evidenced by the blue 'pilot jack' flying at her foremasthead.

    Nassau, the capital of New Providence, the largest island in the Bahamas, is situated on the north side of the island and has a fine harbor. Principal exports in the nineteenth century included cotton, resin, dyewoods and salt, whilst the islands' proximity to Florida and the 'Old South' meant that an enduring relationship existed between the colony and the southern United States.


    Collection of Edward H. Emerson, Arlington, Virginia.
    By descent to present owner.

    Pre-Lot Text



    R.J. Schaefer, J.E. Buttersworth, 19th-Century Marine Painter, Mystic, Connecticut, 1975, see p. 130, nos. 104 & 105 for the preparatory works and color plate XII for a similiar composition.