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Believed burned in the blitz, marine painting surfaces at Bonhams New York
Thomas Jacques Somerscales (British, 1842-1927) The S.S. Ortega entering the straits of Nelson with the S.M.S. Dresden in pursuit. 15-1/4 x 22 in. Est. $12,000-18,000. Photo: Courtesy of Bonhams.
NEW YORK, NY.- 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 outmaneuvering 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 specialized 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.

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