A thick serenity hovers in the gray-skied atmosphere throughout the River Seine port of Rouen. The American merchant barkentine JOHN L. HASBROUCK is anchored at the shore to load and unload cargo. The odds are quite high that distilled spirits are involved, not only due to France's international reputation for the finest wines, but because the Hasbrouck family of Ulster County, New York, owned and operated one of the oldest whiskey distilleries in America. They owned a second near-identical barkentine, MARY HASBROUCK.
Nicolle has captured many subtleties of not only the merchant transactions, with the dockworkers and crew loading and unloading to the horse-drawn carts and the working donkey engines with their mechanical booms, but a crew at leisure waiting for another ship's arrival. A woman in fine dress holding a parasol converses with a French police constable in the foreground. The inanimate objects come forth as well, with his eye for fine detail showing in the ship's rigging. His impression of the industrial revolutions impact shows clearly, with the abundance of machinery and close buildings along the river.
Much of Nicolle's success came with his American business connections, and it is likely this painting is a commemorative work of a deal he wished to remember with the Hasbroucks. The 772-gross ton barkentine was built in 1876 by the popular and successful Captain Nathaniel Thompson of Kennebunk, Maine, with measures of 154' Length x 33.3' Beam x 19.5' Draught. In a few years the Poughkeepsie Line named a Hudson River steamship for the family patriarch as well.
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