Sometimes researching maritime art can be supremely frustrating but persistence is usually the key to unlocking an object’s story. This week I was contacted by a gentleman in South Africa who was interested in a watercolor in our collection by Mathieu-Antoine Roux. The image supposedly depicted a ship called “Alfred”. His ancestors immigrated to South Africa from Hamburg, Germany in 1859 and he was looking for an image that depicted the ship they had traveled on.
The watercolor showed a starboard broadside view of the ship under full sail. The artist very nicely depicted the vessel’s assigned Marryat code on the mizzen mast—the number ‘601’—as well as a house flag, a pennant with the name of the vessel, and a country flag on the stern. He also dated the watercolor (1859) and marked it so we had an idea of the region the ship was depicted in (Marseilles, so the ship was most likely in the Mediterranean).