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Catalog entry

inv. 43
Brig "Antelope" in Boston Harbor
1863
Oil on canvas
24 1/4 x 36 in. (61.6 x 91.4 cm)
Inscribed verso: Painted by F H Lane. / July 1863

Commentary

The brig "Antelope" was built at East Boston in 1843 by Samuel Hall for the firm of Russell and Co. Robert Bennett Forbes was then a partner in that firm and oversaw the brig’s design and construction. Under the command of Philip Dumaresq, her first captain, the resulting vessel proved to be exceptionally fast. At that time, Dumaresq was regarded as Boston’s most able shipmaster.

Built for the opium trade, "Antelope" left Boston in 1843 and spent her entire career smuggling opium into China. She never returned to her home port. Dismasted in a typhoon in 1848, she was rerigged as a bark but was never as fast as before. She was wrecked on a reef near Wusong, China, in 1852. (1)

The date on Lane’s painting (1863) postdates "Antelope's" departure from Boston by twenty years and her loss by eleven years, suggesting that the painting was commissioned by a relative (perhaps Francis Dumaresq) as a memorial to the vessel and to Captain Dumaresq (d. 1861). The brig’s longtime absence from Boston makes it unlikely that Lane had the opportunity to make sketches, let alone a painting, during her existence. His likeliest source was a painting showing "Antelope" posed with its sails trimmed in just the same way, and in the same location in Boston Harbor. The crude depiction of the Boston skyline in that painting adds to the probability that it is of Chinese origin. (2)

Lane’s version has made clearer this image’s narrative content. "Antelope" is depicted as having just arrived in port (an imagined return from China is presumed). She is hove to off East Boston, with foresails aback and her yawl boat in tow astern, ready to bring the captain ashore to report to the Custom House with ship’s papers and cargo manifest. While conjecture has placed Lane in the yawl boat in right foreground, the facial features—most notably the sideburns—bear a closer resemblance to Captain Dumaresq, reinforcing the argument that this painting is a memorial to both the vessel and her first master. (3)

The Boston skyline is typical of Lane’s depictions of this port, whether from Governor’s Island or, in this case, East Boston. This painting’s panoramic view is bounded by Charlestown and the Navy Yard on the right, and Boston Neck and Fort Point Channel on the left. It is also time specific to the mid-1840s, with towers, steeples, and other prominent structures of later dates omitted.

– Erik Ronnberg

References:

1. Robert Bennett Forbes, Personal Reminiscences (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1892), 21, appendix: “List of Vessels."

2. State Street Trust Company, Old Shipping Days in Boston (Boston: State Street Trust, 1913), 12; and State Street Trust Company, Other Merchants and Sea Captains of Old Boston (Boston: State Street Trust, 1919), 21–25.

3. Ibid., 22.

Supplementary Images

Probable Chinese original painting on which Lane based his work. Reproduced in Old Shipping Days ... [more]in Boston (Boston: State Street Trust Company, 1918). Caption reads: "Antelope," one of Russell and Co.'s most celebrated clippers, sailed by Captain Philip Dumaresq." The Boston skyline is a rough approximation.

Provenance (Information known to date; research ongoing.)

the Artist, Gloucester, Mass.
Francis Dumaresq, Boston
Henry de Ford, Brookline, Mass.
Adelaide de Ford, Brookline, Mass. (by descent)
Vose Galleries, Boston
Charles D. Childs, Boston, 1945
Maxim Karolik, Newport, R.I., 1945
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1948

Exhibition History

Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Virginia, America 100 Years Ago, May 12–September 24, 1961.

Published References

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. M. and M. Karolik Collection of American Paintings, 1815 to 1865. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press; published for the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1949.
McLanathan, Richard. Fitz Hugh Lane (Museum of Fine Arts Picture Book Number Eight). Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, 1956; 1972 second ed., p. 7. ⇒ includes text
Wilmderding, John. "The Lithographs of Fitz Hugh Lane." Old-Time New England LIV, no. 2 (October–December 1963)., p. 34.
The American Neptune, Pictorial Supplement VII: A Selection of Marine Paintings by Fitz Hugh Lane, 1804–1865. Salem, MA: The American Neptune, 1965., plate XXIX, no. 114. ⇒ includes text
McLanathan, Richard. The American Tradition in the Arts. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1968.
American Paintings in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, 1969.
Wilmerding, John. Fitz Hugh Lane. New York: Praeger, 1971.
Hoffman, Katherine. "The Art of Fitz Hugh Lane." Essex Institute Historical Collections 119 (1983)., p. 33.
Wilmerding, John. Fitz Henry Lane. Gloucester, MA: Cape Ann Historical Association, 2005. Reprint of Fitz Hugh Lane, by John Wilmerding. New York: Praeger, 1971. Includes new information regarding the artist's name.
Citation: "Brig "Antelope" in Boston Harbor, 1863 (inv. 43)." Fitz Henry Lane Online. Cape Ann Museum. http://fitzhenrylaneonline.org/catalog/entry.php?id=43 (accessed August 20, 2017).
Record last updated July 14, 2016. Please note that the information on this and all pages is periodically reviewed and subject to change.
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