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The Start of the Great 1866 Transatlantic Yacht Race

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Origin United States, New York
Period 1800-1900
Materials Oil on Canvas
Dimensions
W. 31.5 in; H. 23.5 in;
W. 80.01 cm; H. 59.69 cm;
Condition Excellent.
Creation Date Circa 1867
Description A beautiful painting with historic importance, three schooner yachts line up before the Sandy Hook Lightship for the start of the world's first Transatlantic Yacht Race held in 1866. In his book, "J.E. Buttersworth, 19th Century Marine Painter", biographer Rudolph J. Schaefer has noted six views by the artist of this event. This is largest of the known works of this important benchmark in American yacht racing.

Identification of the racing schooners is assisted by the special colored flags worn by the yachts. Foremost in the painting, wearing the Blue was HENRIETTA, owned by renowned newspaper publisher and infamous yachtsman James Gordon Bennett, Jr. White was atop the mast of VESTA, owned by tobacco baron and racehorse aficionado Pierre Lorillard, who initiated the competition with a dinner party boast over turtle soup that his 105-foot schooner was the fastest yacht afloat. The Red flag identified prominent New York Yacht Club members George and Franklin Osgood's famous FLEETWING. A wager of $30,000 each was put up the yacht owners for the head-to-head-to-head match race across the Atlantic Ocean. Bennett's HENRIETTA was the first to the finish off the Isle of Wight with a time of 13 days, 21 hours and 45 minutes winning the then-unrivaled and unheard of purse for any race of $90,000 or $1.3M in today's dollars.

Buttersworth's attention to minute detail shows the racing crews lining the windward rail on all three yachts with all sails set on a broad reach, using organized discipline to pull hard at the rope lines. The elongated bows and colorful treatment of sea and sky make this an excellent work of Buttersworth’s favorite subject matter and superior style. Since the winner HENRIETTA is so prominently featured, one must assume that Buttersworth painted this after the results were known, possibly for Bennett himself.
Styles / Movements Realism
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