• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 2129

    Maritime Decorative Arts

    15 January 2009, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 171

    An exhibition standard model of the schooner yacht Brilliant


    Price Realised  


    An exhibition standard model of the schooner yacht Brilliant
    Joseph Wheeler Appleton (American, 20th century)
    the hull, built up in lifts and carved, sanded and faired from the solid with the bottom painted a deep bronze, a green waterline and white topsides up to a varnished mahogany cap rail. The decks apre planked arond a king plank and gutter planks and detailed with: chocks, deck prisms, hatches, deck plates, companion way, stove pipe, clinker built dinghy, mast winches and deck boxes, skylights, ventilators, traveler bars, pin and fife rails, deck house with skylight, binnacle, companionway, portholes, spoked wheel, life rings, winches, seats, boom crutch, flagstaff and other details. Rigged as a gaff schooner with bowsprit, fore and main masts, standing and running rigging, booms and gaffs, mast rings, sail tracks, topping lifts, jack stays, turnbuckles, turning blocks and other rigging details. Mounted on the ways with hull posts on a painted grey sand board with builder's plaque and model makers plaque. Displayed within a bonded glass case.
    43 x 46½ in. (109.2 x 118.1 cm.) cased.

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    Three years after Brilliant was constructed, ship modeler Joseph Wheeler Appleton built a model of the yacht and presented it to Walter Barnum as a gift. Appleton had sailed on the record setting trans-Atlantic passage and grew fond of the yacht and her owner. Appleton's model has been described as "extraordinary" and as perhaps being the "masterpiece of America's finest yacht model builder." She was built with Brilliant's original gaff rigged sail plan, which has since been replaced by a Marconi rig. Appleton derived all of the details directly from the yacht, every block was fitted with sheaves which turned; all turnbuckles functioned and even had the proper right and left hand threads. The model was displayed at the New York City Yacht club until the Barnum family brought it to their home in Connecticut in 1981. Peter Sorlien, the Director of the Mystic Maritime Gallery at the time, graded the model as having a total of 344 points out of a possible 355 or a 93.8 in terms of scale and detail. This placed the model as "extraordinary" according to judging criteria established by the Mariners' Museum Model Ship Craftsman Competition.



    Pre-Lot Text

    Walter Barnum was born in New York City on Febuary 3rd 1887. He was educated at the Westminster school and then continued onto Yale University and graduated in 1910. He lived most of his adult life in Old Lyme, Connecticut and grew up around and on the water. In 1930, Walter Barnum commissioned naval architect Olin Stephens to design a gaff-rigged, auxiliary schooner. The yacht was constructed at Henry Nevins'Yard in New York City of teak on oak, with bronze knees, and on April 23, 1932 she was christened Brilliant by Mrs. Evelyn Humprey Barnum. She had a LOA of 61ft - 6 in., and a beam of 14ft - 8in., and upon her launch in 1932, Brilliant was worth more than $100,000. She participated in the 1932 Bermuda race, made a trans-Atlantic trip and raced in the 1933 Fastnet race, and completed another Bermuda race in 1936. Alfred F. Loomis, editor of Yachting magazine was the navigator for the trans-Atlantic passage, and published a story detailing the record setting voyage in which Brilliant sailed for five consecutive days at 200 miles or better in a 24 hour period. Mr. Briggs Cunningham purchased Brilliant in 1939 and during World War II, Brilliant served with the Coast Guard. After the war, Cunningham refitted her as a yacht and then in 1953 he donated her to the Mystic Seaport Museum where she still resides, and is renowned as one of the best built and best preserved of historic wooden boats. Walter Barnum died in 1966.


    Nautical World Magazine, October 1997, Joseph Appleton's Brilliant, ppg. 40-45


    New York Yacht Club 1935-1981