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Fitz Henry Lane (Massachusetts, 1804-1865) Pair of Pendant Portraits of a Pilot Boat Alongside a Large Frigate

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American Furniture & Decorative Arts - 3167B
Date / Time :
November 03, 2018 10:00AM


Fitz Henry Lane (Massachusetts, 1804-1865)

Pair of Pendant Portraits of a Pilot Boat Alongside a Large Frigate
Oil on canvas, 14 x 17 in., in molded giltwood frames.
Condition: Relined, minor retouch.

Provenance: Possibly originally owned by either Robert B. Forbes or his brother John M. Forbes. Possible gift, before 1863, to Captain Jonathan Smith, who may have worked for R.B. Forbes in the China Trade. By descent in the Smith family.

Note: Sam Holdsworth inspected these paintings for the owners, and wrote about his findings at, "an online project under the direction of the Cape Ann Museum." Holdsworth writes that these "handsome" and "confidently executed" paintings are "clearly" a pair and "intended to be displayed together." They appear to show the same moment, a frigate getting ready to receive or discharge a pilot, one of the works showing the frigate with the bow approaching, the other from astern. Holdsworth notes that "As always with Lane, the rigging and details of the frigate are beautifully and correctly noted, even to the point of one of the forward jib sheets flying free shown in both views."

Holdsworth speculates that it is possible that the paintings "may have been commissioned to commemorate the Boston pilot schooner rather the large frigate... [the pilot] flies the blue and white flag of Boston pilots, and her hull has a shape a color scheme nearly identical to that of the schooner 'Sylph' which was built as a yacht in 1834 and worked as a Boston pilot boat in 1836-37. For part of her yachting career she was owned by Robert Bennett Forbes and Samuel Cabot. It seems plausible that R.B. Forbes commissioned these paintings of his old yacht, now a pilot schooner, which were later acquired [by] or given to his brother John Murray Forbes and hence to Jonathan Smith."
Estimate $150,000-250,000

There are scattered spots of retouch in the upper right quadrant and at the horizon near the right edge of the painting showing the frigate departing; there are minor spots of retouch in the upper left quadrant and a couple small spots in the upper center of the painting showing the frigate arriving. Both paintings were treated in 1993 by Morton Bradley of Arlington, Mass., according to a typed label on the reverse of each.

The absence of a condition statement does not imply that the lot is in perfect condition or completely free from wear and tear, imperfections or the effects of aging. Condition requests can be obtained via email (lot inquiry button) or by telephone to the appropriate gallery location (Boston/617.350.5400 or Marlborough/508.970.3000). Any condition statement given, as a courtesy to a client, is only an opinion and should not be treated as a statement of fact. Skinner Inc. shall have no responsibility for any error or omission.


Holdsworth, Jonathan Smith, John M. Forbes, Robert B. Forbes, Sam Holdsworth, Samuel Cabot, Robert Bennett Forbes, Forbes, Human behavior, John Murray Forbes, Maritime pilot, Maritime transport, Navigation, Pilot, Schooner, Transport