Sought by collectors worldwide, art showing an early western presence in the Orient boomed with the opening of the China Trade by way of the sailing ship. The competition between the Dutch and English, followed by America and England, for the growing tea trade contributed to a worldwide focus in the orient trade. As a result, captains commissioned talented Chinese artists to document the vessels whose reputation for speed and efficiency were breaking all records.
This portrait was likely commissioned by the company, Francis Carvill and Sons to document their new ship, the FRANK CARVILL, built in New Brunswick, Canada in 1875, as she carried a cargo into the port of Hong Kong.
Francis “Frank” Carvill (1800-1854) was, in his time, the largest employer and trader in the port of Newry, County Down, Ireland. Besides owning sawmills and factories, Carvill was the first person to bring shipbuilding to Newry and owned several vessels himself. The Carvill Company acted as an emigration agent for those going to North America during the worst years of the Irish Potato Famine, with many successful sailings to ports in America and Canada. Carvill’s vessels were known to be sound and comfortable with captains who were kindly custodians of those making the perilous crossing. Newry County still retains the letters of praise and gratitude to Carvill and Co. from former fellow townsmen whom they had carried to new lives. It is said that there was hardly a project in the town that Carvill didn’t touch, and he is remembered as a great civic supporter and philanthropist. It is no wonder then that in later years his sons would name one of the company’s new ships in honor of their father.
The business would continue to grow after Frank Carvill’s death, broadening their interests to further manufacturing and shipping of goods which clearly included commerce in the bustling ports of Asia, where this portrait would have been made. This is a particularly well rendered and detailed painting with excellent coloration. The ship is shown at her best, in good proportion with sail and deck in high detail. That combined with an unusually fine depiction of sea and sky mark this as the work of an highly skilled artisan of the Chinese School.
Set in a period Chinese Chippendale frame with gilt highlights.
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