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Catalog entry

inv. 219
Graphite on paper
8 x 9 1/4 in. (20.3 x 23.5 cm)
Signed lower right (in pencil): Lane del.


Despite – or maybe because of – this drawing’s few and simple lines, Lane has masterfully conveyed the graceful hull form and volume of a common work boat. Yawl boats were carried by New England merchant and fishing vessels, most commonly from davits at the stern. They were also modified for harbor work or shore fishing by adding spars, sails, and even partial decking as with this example. Ruggedly-built, and originally of lapstrake construction, by Lane’s time carvel (smooth) planking was standard.

Examples of yawl boats are often seen in Lane’s paintings, some of the best examples being A Smart Blow, c.1856 (inv. 9), Ships in Ice off Ten Pound Island, Gloucester, 1850s (inv. 44), Gloucester Inner Harbor, 1850 (inv. 240), Ships Leaving Boston Harbor, 1847 (inv. 265), and The Fort and Ten Pound Island, Gloucester, Massachusetts, 1847 (inv. 271).

–Erik Ronnberg


Muriel H. Parry et al., “Aak to Zumbra” (Newport News, VA: The Mariners’ Museum, 2000), p. 643.

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Vessel Types:   Yawl Boat/ Dory/Wherry »

Historical Materials
Below is historical information related to the Lane work above. To see complete information on a subject on the Historical Materials page, click on the subject name (in bold and underlined).

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The yawl boat was a ninteenth-century development of earlier ships' boats built for naval and merchant use. Usually twenty feet long or less, they had round bottoms and square sterns; many had raking stem profiles. Yawl boats built for fishing tended to have greater beam than those built for vessels in the coastal trades. In the hand-line fisheries, where the crew fished from the schooner's rails, a single yawl boat was hung from the stern davits as a life boat or for use in port. Their possible use as lifeboats required greater breadth to provide room for the whole crew. In port, they carried crew, provisions, and gear between schooner and shore. (1)

Lane's most dramatic depictions of fishing schooners' yawl-boats are found in his paintings Gloucester Outer Harbor, from the Cut, 1850s (inv. 109) and /entry:311. Their hull forms follow closely that of Chapelle's lines drawing. (2) Similar examples appear in the foregrounds of Gloucester Harbor, 1852 (inv. 38), Ships in Ice off Ten Pound Island, Gloucester, 1850s (inv. 44), and The Fort and Ten Pound Island, Gloucester, Massachusetts, 1847 (inv. 271). A slightly smaller example is having its bottom seams payed with pitch in the foreground of Gloucester Harbor, 1847 (inv. 23). In Gloucester Inner Harbor, 1850 (inv. 240), a grounded yawl boat gives an excellent view of its seating arrangement, while fishing schooners in the left background have yawl boats hung from their stern davits, or floating astern.

One remarkable drawing, Untitled (inv. 219) illustrates both the hull geometry of a yawl boat and Lane's uncanny accuracy in depicting hull form in perspective. No hull construction other than plank seams is shown, leaving pure hull form to be explored, leading in turn to unanswered questions concerning Lane's training to achieve such understanding of naval architecture.

– Erik Ronnberg


1. Howard I. Chapelle, American Small Sailing Craft (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1951), 222–23.

2. Ibid., 223.

Ships in Ice
Fitz Henry Lane
Oil on canvas
12 1/8 x 19 3/4 in.
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Bequest of Martha C. Karolik for the M.and M. Karolik Collection of American Paintings, 1815-1865 (48.447)

A schooner's yawl lies marooned in the ice-bound harbor in this detail.

Image: Cape Ann Museum
Gloucester Harbor
Fitz Henry Lane
Oil on canvas
28 1/2 x 41 in.
Cape Ann Museum, Gloucester, Mass., Gift of Estate of Samuel H. Mansfield, 1949 (1332.20)

Detail showing yawl boat having its bottom seams payed with pitch.


Exhibition History

No known exhibitions.

Published References

No known published references.

Related historical materials

Vessel Types
Citation: "Untitled (inv. 219)." Fitz Henry Lane Online. Cape Ann Museum. (accessed June 13, 2024).
Record last updated March 4, 2017. Please note that the information on this and all pages is periodically reviewed and subject to change.
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