Built as the largest ocean liner of her day, the White Star liner RMS TITANIC was outfitted to also be the most luxurious and comfortable, with cross-Atlantic passage in the top first class staterooms costing more than $100,000 in today’s money. It’s no surprise that other luxury brands would seek to associate themselves with the ship, and in 1912 it was champagne maker Moet & Chandon that was set to do so.
The match was nearly obvious due to a naming coincidence. Moet had been producing a dry champagne variety under the label White Star since 1865, and it was their flagship imprint in the United States for over a century. The White Star line started even earlier, in 1845, but it wasn’t until the TITANIC that the two were nearly brought together as we can see in this rare, historic and unfinished painting.
The form of the TITANIC looms large, sailing toward a bottle of Moet & Chandon White Star Champagne which floats in the water. On the left, the TITANIC’s sister ship RMS OLYMPIC sails in the opposite direction. In the center, a sailing ship, likely the original clipper WHITE STAR, one of the vessels in the White Star Lines first fleet.
The painting is nearly complete, with only pieces of text remaining to fill in. At the top the banner reads, “WHITE STAR LINE- The Only Choice for the Discerning Traveler”. Below, we see a list of intended ports- “Southampton, Cherbourg, Queenstown, New York and Boston”. White Star planned to have their three OLYMPIC class liners making Atlantic crossings simultaneously, rotating the ships so they could offer weekly sailings in both directions. This would have been key to any ad campaign, and why we see the two ships cross each other here- depicting a modern and convenient schedule with old world luxury.
TITANIC and OLYMPIC were nearly identical ships, so it’s likely this was painted from existing images of OLYMPIC, completed in 1911. This allowed the agency and artist to start planning the campaign for Moet while TITANIC’s fitting out was completed. TITANIC, as the newer and more luxurious of the two, was clearly intended as the star of the ad.
Of course we know why this painting was never finished. The April 15, 1912 sinking of the TITANIC, on its maiden voyage, only five days after leaving Southampton, made this portrait sadly out of date. There would be no campaign with Moet and this important painting would be set aside for over 100 years until it was brought forth again today.
The rare original label of the agency “S.H. Benson” remains lower right, also listing their client Moet & Chandon, and the initials of the artist, “L.H.”
first name :