From the heart of the Clipper Ship Era, a blazer of a portrait shows the Donald McKay-built Extreme Clipper EMPRESS OF THE SEAS. Sailing off dual forts protecting the entrance to Portsmouth Harbor with a large warship at anchor and a British Brig under sail, the 230'L x 43'B x 27'D clipper flies a contingent of flags including her International Merchant Code, house flag and American ensign. Her captain, Jon Oakford, had led her on an unusual course. She left New York for Quebec, then to London, where she departed on Nov. 28, 1854 and sailed to Bombay, India, taking 97 days for the round-trip voyage back to London.
McKay sold his ship prior to completion on speculation in 1852 to a Baltimore group for a significant sum of $125,000. Her maiden 1853 voyage was over the traditional New York-to-San Francisco Cape Horn route in the waning days of the California Gold Rush; a trip she took 121 days to complete. EMPRESS OF THE SEAS repeated this voyage in 1856 and 1857, making it in 115 and 124 days, respectively. In 1858 she was leased to British Black-Ball firm Pilkington & Wilson, who put her in service from Liverpool to Australia, and 1861 she made an extremely fast voyage of 66½ days. Loaded her wool and ₤80,000 in gold, she suspiciously caught fire in Port Philip and was lost.
Tudgay’s beautiful and bright portrait captured in the first-person from life is a fitting artistic tribute to one of the finest vessels this important American builder of fast clippers ever launched.
Provenance: Vose Galleries, Boston; Hirsch & Adler Gallery, New York; Ritz Carlton Hotel, San Diego Ca.
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