This atmospheric composition of an unidentified barque favoured with a following wind and calm sea, suggest the influence of Robert Salmon, who was active and exhibiting in Greenock from 1811-1822. It also displays his same meticulous attention to technical detail.*
The numerous small sailing craft on the horizon, along with the Clyde paddle steamer on the right, and what is probably a revenue cutter on the left, suggest that the scene is set in the lower reaches of the Firth approaching the open waters of the Irish Sea. Depending upon the port of destination and the master's prediction of the weather, the barque will now either head for the nearby North Channel or carry on southwards for St. Georges's Channel, possibly calling at intermediate ports.
Lacking a name on the hull, or a Marryat flag hoist, identification depends on the 'house flag' at the foremast and the black ball at the mainmast. The former is a 'reversed (French) tricolour' forming the basis of the well-known P. Henderson flag, distinguished by an added diminutive Union Flag defacing the central white stripe. Whether this same basic tricolour was an earlier simple form of house flag adopted in 1835 when Patrick Henderson had the barque Peter Senn built on the Clyde, it has not been possible to determine. What appears to be a 'male bust' figurehead may also prove significant. The black ball at the main masthead would appear to be a permanent fixture, since there is no evidence of a halyard. Easily visible at a distance, combined with the house flag it could be a means of identifying a particular vessel within that company fleet. However, no specific reference has yet come to light concerning the use of this particular combination.
*That the barque was probably Clyde-built is suggested by the sail plan of the mizzen mast. Effectively the equivalent of the modern 'fully battened mainsail', each of its three sections may be separately furled from the deck. From observations to date, the adoption of what seems a very practical arrangement, does not appear to have spread outside the Clyde.
Christie's are most grateful to A.S. Davidson, author of Marine Art & The Clyde, 100 Years of Sea, Sail and Steam, published by Jones-Sands Publishing, 2001, for his help in cataloguing this lot.