Oil on canvas
19th CenturyUnframed 21 7/8″ L x 12 3/4″ H
Framed 27″ x 17 1/2″UnsignedPresented is a China Trade painting
of the three island steamship AZTEC in the turbulent wind tossed waves and cloudy skies of a full storm. She
is steaming under reduced speed into a head sea and heeling to starboard with no flags flying. The horizon is indistinct
in the background. The sky is a blackish gay with many dark weather clouds. A moody painting by an accomplished
China Trade artist that is in suburb condition. The painting is unsigned which is typical of this genre.CONDITION: It is in excellent
condition. There seems to be some indistinct writing on the front lower left that has worn off. The painting is
mounted in a valuable gilded wood frame of the period which also is in fine condition with a patina of age, and some scuff
PROVENANCE: From the private collection of George W. Davis
from at least 1963. Mr. Davis was the senior partner of Davis Skaggs & Co., San Francisco, and investment banking firm
whose operations date back to the mid 1920’s. The firm is still in business, but was acquired by Shearson American Express
in 1983. On its stretcher is the notation that it is the property of George W. Davis, and dated 1964THE SHIP: The AZTEC, owned by the Oriental Navigation
Co. of Englewood, NJ, was a slow moving freighter of 3727 gross tons that was built in Newcastle, England in 1894.
She was 350 Feet long with a beam of 43 feet. She left New York on March 18, 1917 for Le Harve, France under the command of
Captain Walter O’Brien. She was sunk by a German submarine on at 9:15 PM on the night of April 2, 1917 off the coast of Brest.
Nineteen of the crew were rescued by a French patrol boat and twenty eight were reported missing.
CHINA TRADE PAINTINGS:
There were numerous artists who painted portraits of Western vessels throughout the Orient and some migrated to
Europe to practice their craft. Their paintings were somewhat flat in their style, and more simply executed than European
and American artists. Frequently the ships and landscapes in the backgrounds gave an indication of where they were painted. The
paintings may have age crackles in their varnish, and many of them are in poor condition requiring restoration. They
were frequently presented with a carved wooden frame, in the so called Chinese Chippendale. Chinese craftsmen proved adept at copying Western styles and industrial-style workshops employed crews of low-paid
artisans to create the wares that were sold at trade centers called “hongs,” originally along the Pearl River at Canton
and later throughout Asia. Since the artists considered themselves no more than workmen, most did not sign their works.
Today, signed paintings by the few that did such as Spoilum, Lamqua, Foeiqua, Sunqua and
Tinqua can bring hundreds of thousands of dollars so that China Trade paintings are one of the most
desirable items to have in any collection of marine art or nautical antiques.