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    Sale 2067

    Maritime Art

    3 December 2008, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 19

    James Edward Buttersworth (American, 1817-1894)

    Towing the Man-o'War, most probably the U.S.S. Vermont, towards the Sandy Hook lighthouse at sunset inbound for New York

    Price Realised  


    James Edward Buttersworth (American, 1817-1894)
    Towing the Man-o'War, most probably the U.S.S. Vermont, towards the Sandy Hook lighthouse at sunset inbound for New York
    signed 'J.E. Buttersworth' (lower right)
    oil on panel
    5¼ x 8 in. (13.3 x 20.3 cm.)
    Painted circa 1870.

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    Although Schaefer has not identified the location in this haunting work, a careful study of other paintings by James Edward Buttersworth - along with similar views by other American artists - has confirmed it as the Sandy Hook Channel, approaching the lighthouse, as the subject vessels head into the Lower Bay of New York.

    Furthermore, whereas Schaefer makes an intriguing reference in his commentary to 'that imaginary ship'.. 'again' - apparently a similar 'imaginary' vessel to the one already depicted by Buttersworth in three earlier works (see Schaefer, pp. 108-09, nos. 83 & 84 and p. 139, no. 114) - painstaking research has revealed that the three-decker battleship in this painting is almost certainly the ageing U.S.S. Vermont. As if to verify this even further, Schaefer has dated the work to circa 1870 and it is a recorded fact that, in early August 1864, Vermont was towed into New York Harbor where she would spend the remainder of her very long life, first as a receiving ship and, latterly, as a store. Since Schaefer's dating is invariably to be replied upon and Vermont was, effectively, the only multi-decked ship-of-the-line still afloat and seaworthy on the eastern seaboard at that time, the evidence for this being a final sentimental portrait of her - at sea for the very last time - is compelling to say the least.

    Throughout the history of the United States, her navy has only contained ten classic multi-decked wooden ships-of-the-line. The first three - Franklin, Independence and Washington - all entered service as long ago as 1815 whereas the remainder followed gradually until the last pair was commissioned during the Civil War of the 1860s. Of these two, Vermont was originally laid down in the Boston Navy Yard in September 1818 and completed around 1825. Kept 'on the stocks' for over twenty years, she was eventually launched on 15th September 1848 and, at that time, measured at 2,633 tons. Without a role, she was placed 'in ordinary' (i.e. laid up in reserve) until the outbreak of the Civil War when she was at last commissioned at Boston in 1862. Placed under the command of Commander Baldwin, she was given orders to make for Port Royal, South Carolina, to join Admiral Dupont's South Atlantic Blockading Squadron. Taken under tow by the steamer Kensington, she was caught in a violent northwest gale off Cape Cod on 24th February and almost lost; fortunately, her hull was sound, rescue vessels reached her on 7th March and she limped into Port Royal under her own sails on 12th April. Remaining there for two years, during which she acted - at various times - as an ordnance, hospital, receiving and store ship, her usefulness drew high praise until, on 25th July 1864, Secretary of the Navy Gideon Wells ordered her to New York for 'public service.' Leaving Port Royal on 2nd August, she was towed to New York where she spent the next thirty-seven years fulfilling harbor duties, never again returning to sea. Finally condemned and struck from the Navy List in December 1901, she was sold for breaking in April 1902.

    Pre-Lot Text



    Rudolph J. Schaefer, J. E. Buttersworth 19th Century Marine Painter, Mystic, Connecticut, 1975, p. 164, no. 140 (illustrated as Towing the Man-of-War).