Although the name of the vessel in this dramatic work is currently unknown, she can be identified as American from the distinctive red storm flag flying from her main masthead (see H.J. Rogers, The American Code of Signals for the use of vessels employed in the Merchant Service, New York, 1854). She is also clearly definable as a classic clipper ship rather than a mere merchantman, sturdy workhorses though they were, from the evidence of her fine lines and characteristic sail plan.
Unlike most other marine painters, James Edward Buttersworth was extremely fond of storm pictures and painted a surprisingly large number of them--showing all types of vessels, naval and merchant, in many different heavy weather conditions--during his long career. In his catalogue raisonné of the artist, Rudolph J. Schaefer cites no fewer than eight rather similar works depicting clippers in stormy weather yet only three of them feature named ships. The painting contained in this catalogue is actually very reminiscent of his Ship "Young America" in a Hurricane (J.E. Buttersworth: 19th Century Marine Painter, Mystic, Connecticut, 1975, p. 113, no. 88) but it does not depict that ship and, in fact, bears more resemblance to the unidentified vessel shown on Schaefer's color plate X.
Even though Buttersworth chose not to inscribe--and thus identify--the lot offered herein, its quality nevertheless resonates with those comments which Schaefer placed alongside one of the artist's more famous storm scenes, namely:
"He [J.E.B.] has the ability to make you feel the experience of being immersed in such a turbulent situation: the heave and creaking of the ship struggling through the mountainous and roaring seas, the sting of the wind-driven spray, and the screaming of the gale through the rigging. When you can sense all of this, then you know that it has been masterfully presented."
It is highly probable that the ship depicted here did not founder in this particular storm and her owners (or master) afterwards commissioned Buttersworth to record her survival from what was clearly a precarious situation.