Lot

25

Sir John Lavery RA RSA RHA (1856-1941) THE WRECK OF THE DELHI, SIDI CASSIM, MOROCCO, 1911

In Important Irish Art

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Dublin 4 ,
Sir John Lavery RA RSA RHA (1856-1941) THE WRECK OF THE DELHI, SIDI CASSIM, MOROCCO, 1911 oil on board signed lower right; signed, titled and dated on reverse 'Sir John Lavery, RA, 1856-1941', Edinburgh, London, Fine Art Society, Belfast, Ulster Museum and Dublin, National Gallery of Ireland, 1984, no. 65 McKonkey, Kenneth, John Lavery, A Painter and his World, Atelier Books, 2010, p. 116 During the hours of darkness in a gale, on 12 December 1911, the P&O 'Indiaman', SS Delhi, approaching the Straits of Gibraltar, ran aground on a sandbank and some hidden rocks off Cap Spartel, in north Africa. Initially the crew hoped to re-float the vessel, but when it started to list and break up the decision was taken to abandon ship. There were 100 passengers on board among whom were Louise Victoria, the Princess Royal, her husband, the Duke of Fife, and their daughters, Princesses Alexandra and Maud. The French cruiser Friant, answering the distress call, rushed to the scene and in the ensuing rescue attempt three crew members lost their lives. The next morning the British cruiser, Duke of Edinburgh, arrived and launched its long-boat in order to convey the royal party to the shore. Although the princess and her family eventually reached safety, this perilous enterprise nearly ended in disaster when the boat capsized in very rough seas. Mother and children, supplied with warm clothes, were then escorted on horseback to the British Legation in Tangier, while all other passengers were taken by the rescue ships to Gibraltar. Throughout the salvage operations - there was a quantity of gold bullion on board - a guard-post was established on the beach to defend the cargo from marauders. (1)
Lavery, who had arrived in Tangier en famille, for his annual winter sojourn, immediately decided to record this dramatic event. The Cap was a short horse-ride from his house on the outskirts of Tangier. There he painted the present vivid sketch, showing the hastily-erected command-post and the stricken liner, its keel broken by ceaseless pounding. A further recently re-discovered sketch reveals the beached British cruiser's long-boat, while a view from nearby cliffs shows a party of survivors heading to the city along the shore. Early in the new year, using these valuable oil sketches, Lavery embarked upon his large canvas of The Wreck of the SS Delhi, Sidi Cassim, Morocco in his garden studio on Mount Washington.

By this time however, the story was no longer newsworthy and although the shipwreck drama was recreated, the big picture's foreground was left unresolved. Arguably, more arresting in its atmospheric integrity, the present oil sketch conveys the full intensity of that dramatic sight in which huge waves break over the ship while a 'red ensign' flaps in the wind and a packhorse or donkey awaits its own rescue mission beside a heap of precious salvage.

Prof Kenneth McKonkey,
April 2019

Footnote:
1. See press reports in The Times, 14 December 1911, p. 8; Illustrated London News, 16 December 1911, p. 1025 and 20 December 1911, pp. 1108-9.
10 by 14in. (25.4 by 35.6cm)
Sir John Lavery RA RSA RHA (1856-1941) THE WRECK OF THE DELHI, SIDI CASSIM, MOROCCO, 1911 oil on board signed lower right; signed, titled and dated on reverse 'Sir John Lavery, RA, 1856-1941', Edinburgh, London, Fine Art Society, Belfast, Ulster Museum and Dublin, National Gallery of Ireland, 1984, no. 65 McKonkey, Kenneth, John Lavery, A Painter and his World, Atelier Books, 2010, p. 116 During the hours of darkness in a gale, on 12 December 1911, the P&O 'Indiaman', SS Delhi, approaching the Straits of Gibraltar, ran aground on a sandbank and some hidden rocks off Cap Spartel, in north Africa. Initially the crew hoped to re-float the vessel, but when it started to list and break up the decision was taken to abandon ship. There were 100 passengers on board among whom were Louise Victoria, the Princess Royal, her husband, the Duke of Fife, and their daughters, Princesses Alexandra and Maud. The French cruiser Friant, answering the distress call, rushed to the scene and in the ensuing rescue attempt three crew members lost their lives. The next morning the British cruiser, Duke of Edinburgh, arrived and launched its long-boat in order to convey the royal party to the shore. Although the princess and her family eventually reached safety, this perilous enterprise nearly ended in disaster when the boat capsized in very rough seas. Mother and children, supplied with warm clothes, were then escorted on horseback to the British Legation in Tangier, while all other passengers were taken by the rescue ships to Gibraltar. Throughout the salvage operations - there was a quantity of gold bullion on board - a guard-post was established on the beach to defend the cargo from marauders. (1)
Lavery, who had arrived in Tangier en famille, for his annual winter sojourn, immediately decided to record this dramatic event. The Cap was a short horse-ride from his house on the outskirts of Tangier. There he painted the present vivid sketch, showing the hastily-erected command-post and the stricken liner, its keel broken by ceaseless pounding. A further recently re-discovered sketch reveals the beached British cruiser's long-boat, while a view from nearby cliffs shows a party of survivors heading to the city along the shore. Early in the new year, using these valuable oil sketches, Lavery embarked upon his large canvas of The Wreck of the SS Delhi, Sidi Cassim, Morocco in his garden studio on Mount Washington.

By this time however, the story was no longer newsworthy and although the shipwreck drama was recreated, the big picture's foreground was left unresolved. Arguably, more arresting in its atmospheric integrity, the present oil sketch conveys the full intensity of that dramatic sight in which huge waves break over the ship while a 'red ensign' flaps in the wind and a packhorse or donkey awaits its own rescue mission beside a heap of precious salvage.

Prof Kenneth McKonkey,
April 2019

Footnote:
1. See press reports in The Times, 14 December 1911, p. 8; Illustrated London News, 16 December 1911, p. 1025 and 20 December 1911, pp. 1108-9.
10 by 14in. (25.4 by 35.6cm)

Important Irish Art

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Whyte & Sons Auctioneers Limited, trading as Whyte's, hereinafter called "the auctioneer" exercises all reasonable care to ensure that all descriptions are reliable and accurate, and that each item is genuine unless the contrary is indicated. However, the descriptions are not intended to be, are not and are not to be taken to be, statements of fact or representations of fact in relation to the lot. They are statements of the opinion of the auctioneers, and attention is particularly drawn to clause 5 in our full Terms & Conditions. Comments and opinions, which may be found in or on lots as labels, notes, lists, catalogue prices, or any other means of expression, do not constitute part of lot descriptions and are not to be taken as such unless they are made or specifically verified by the auctioneers.

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Tags: John Lavery, Oil painting