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Early maritime paintings from the period of the 1820s are very rare.  The genre became more popular as the 19th century progressed, but this is a rare early scene depicting events that transpired during the period of the American Revolutionary War nearly 50 years before.  The painting depicts HMS Jersey, built by in Britain in 1736, which served as a prison ship docked in New York Harbor during the war.  Thousands of American soldiers suffered aboard the British prison ships, in the most horrific of conditions.  According to sources, while battle deaths during the war numbered 4,435 killed during the war, it is estimated that more than 8,000 died aboard the New York prison ships including the HMS Jersey.  Despite being a British ship, the artist chose to commemorate the valor of the men who suffered aboard the HMS Jersey for the cause of freedom by hoisting an American flag over the ship.  The small skiff painted in the foreground shows prisoners being taken to the ship.  The painting is very finely done, with exceptional folk art qualities in the composition of the water, the ship, the skiff and the sky.  It remains in its original frame.  While most paintings of early sailing ships are done to commemorate the greatness of a ship of the day, the fact that this painting was done to memorialize such a historic and tragic chapter of the American Revolution, and by a family member of one of the soldiers who actually fought in the Revolution and was held prisoner aboard the ship, makes this particular painting one of the more extraordinary examples of early American maritime art.

An early 19th century oil painting depicting a British prison ship for American soldiers captured during the American Revolution, painted by the nephew of an American soldier held prisoner aboard the ship.   Media:  Oil Paint on Wood Board

Date:  1823

War:  Commemorative of the American Revolution

Type:  Painting

Catalog Number:  IAS-00119

Masterpiece Scherenschnitte
Isaac Stiehly, circa 1835


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