Believed burned in The Blitz, marine painting surfaces at Bonhams New York

Fine Maritime Paintings and Decorative Arts
5 Jun 2013
New York

NEW YORK — Thought to have been lost forever in the blitz of Liverpool, a remarkable composition by British maritime painter Thomas Jacques Somerscales will be offered on June 5 in Bonhams Fine Maritime Paintings & Decorative Arts (est. $12,000-18,000). The 1916 painting depicts the S.S. Ortega entering the straits of the Nelson with the S.M.S Dresden in pursuit. It was recorded in Alex A. Hurst's 1988 book Thomas Somerscales – Marine Artist as having been destroyed when the Pacific Steam Navigation Company's Liverpool offices were bombed, but the painting has resurfaced in the home of a private American collector.

"The Somerscales painting shows the S.S. Ortega bravely outmanoeuvring the larger and faster S.M.S. Dresden, narrowly escaping cannon fire," explained Bonhams Maritime Consultant, Gregg Dietrich. "In a sense, the subject of the painting is a metaphor for the work itself, which has also managed to survive against all odds."

In addition to the Somerscales painting, the auction includes works by many of the leading marine artists. Three compositions by James Edward Buttersworth, an artist whose works achieved laudable success in Bonhams January auction of Important Maritime Paintings, will be on offer. Especially notable is the artist's "American Frigate in a Storm" (est. $60,000-80,000). The dark palette and dramatic subject create an ominous atmosphere, punctuated by two small American flags waving bravely in the wind.

Another highlight is William Bradford's "The Goelet Prize for Sloop Yachts with Gracie in the Lead" depicting the race for sloop yachts in Newport, Rhode Island, on August 6, 1883 (est. $60,000-80,000). The painterly canvas boasts an exceptional variety of both ships and figures. Works by Montague Dawson, George Webster, Antonio Nicolo Gasparo Jacobsen and Samuel Walters round out the section.

Bonhams is a market leader for Napoleonic prisoner-of-war ship models, and will offer two fine examples on June 5 - a French/English bone model of a 74 gun ship-of-the-line circa 1800 and a French/English 90 gun ship-of-the-line circa 1805, each estimated to fetch $15,000-25,000. Other models of note include a Robert Thompson & Son builder's model of the four-island freighter S.S. Iddesleigh (est. $10,000 – 15,000).

The auction also includes material from specialised collecting fields including Titanic memorabilia, Chinese trade paintings, and WWII naval compositions alongside historically significant and highly coveted nautical instruments and scrimshaw.

Bonhams Fine Maritime Paintings & Decorative Arts auction will take place on June 5 in New York. The sale will preview at Bonhams June 1-5.

A fully illustrated catalogue is available at


Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world's largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques. The present company was formed by the merger in November 2001 of Bonhams & Brooks and Phillips Son & Neale. In August 2002, the company acquired Butterfields, the principal firm of auctioneers on the West Coast of America. Today, Bonhams offers more sales than any of its rivals, through two major salerooms in London: New Bond Street and Knightsbridge; and a further three in the UK regions and Scotland. Sales are also held in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Carmel, New York and Connecticut in the USA; and Germany, France, Monaco, Hong Kong and Australia. Bonhams has a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 25 countries offering sales advice and valuation services in 60 specialist areas. For a full listing of upcoming sales, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments go to

Related auctions