The full-rigged Duke of Lancaster was built at Liverpool in 1820 and operated by one of that city's most prominent ship-owners Mr. John Gladstone. Measured at 565 tons, she was quite a large vessel for her day and drew 19 feet of water when fully laden. She was also stoutly built, with iron knees and "proved iron" cables, as well as having a copper-sheathed hull. Under her first master Captain Morrison, she was employed in the Calcutta trade and continued thus, albeit with some later trips to Bombay, under Captain Hargraves for the rest of her career until disappearing from record in 1844.
Royal Saxon, 510 tons and another Liverpool ship, was built in the city in 1829 and owned by Kendall & Co. From the outset, under her first master Captain Renner, she traded to Batavia [Java] and continued on this route under her new master Captain Black after 1834. Around 1840, after she had been sold to Towns of London, she altered her regular run to Port Phillip, Australia and thereafter Sydney before disappearing from record in 1844.
Given that both the principal vessels portrayed here are unrecorded after 1844 - a remarkable coincidence - and Royal Saxon passed into the fleet of a London owner in 1840, it is almost certain that this work would have been painted during the 1830s.
John Gladstone was also the father of the Liberal Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone; for another vessel latterly in the Gladstone fleet, see lot 15 in this catalogue.