A Ship's Portrait of  the Schooner Walfrid

A Ship’s Portrait of  the Schooner Walfrid

They passed Vesuvius in Italy. Painted Malta ca 1870

My Grandfathers’s boat Walfrid, Captain Jorgen Ibsen

This is the ship's portrait of the Danish Schooner Walfrid.
Since acquiring her in January of 2003 I have been pondering her riddles with surprising results.
Most of my research was found on the internet so I give this tribute back to the surfing community.
Special thanks to the Buchholz family.
Their website Fine Art Emporium is the ultimate website for ship's portrait enthusiasts
http://www.fineartemporium.com/index.htm
Also great thanks to Hanne Poulsen of the Kronborg Slot Maritime Museum who was so kind identifying the origins of the Schooner Walfrid.

The provinence of the Walfrid was recorded in the Danish language by a descendant of her skipper.

" My Grandfathers's boat Walfrid, Captain Jorgen Ibsen. He sailed from Iceland in the summer to Italy in the winter. They passed Vesuvius in Italy. Painted Malta ca 1870.  1.4.74"

The painting is an unsigned and undated oil on canvas likely executed by a Pierhead Painter. 
The painter could have been Neapolitan, Sicilian or Maltese. Naples was the center of Pierhead Painting in the Mediterranean. The Neapolitans usually executed their work in watercolor or gauche on paperboard so an oil on canvas is unusual. We can assume that Captain Ibsen was commanding Walfrid when he commissioned the painting and specified oil on canvas to create a permanent tribute to the vessel.

The scene is a perfect blue Mediterranean sea with a prevailing westerly. Equatorial waters almost always appear blue to the viewer. Walfrid is pictured passing Stromboli around 1870 most likely en route to Naples. We can date the painting because the blue white blue flag on the mainmast is a Two Sicilies Pilot Signal noted in Colton's Delineation of Flags of all Nations (1862) and was recorded first in 1848,  HAC stands for the name of H.A. Clausen, Walfrid's owner.
( http://www.crwflags.com/fotw/flags/it_nap-h.html#sig).

The Kingdom of Naples was terminated by plebiscite in 1861 when the southern half of Italy voted to join the north in the creation of the Kingdom of Italy after the invasion by Garibaldi. Therefore the blue-white-blue pilot signal would eventually have been changed. The monogram on the Pilot signal reads H.A.C. for H. A.Clausen, Walfrid's owner.

Stromboli is the most romantic Volcano in the Mediterranean, the newest in a chain of several defunct volcanic Aeolian Islands formed along the Tyrrhenian subduction zone. Stromboli rises 2,900 feet (900 m) above sea level and forms the near perfect cone shape shown in the painting. Stromboli is 3 miles in diameter and rises 10,000 feet above the floor of the Tyrrhenian Sea. She was recorded erupting continuosly between 1850-70 thus lending credence to the painting. At that time there were 1700 Strombolian inhabitants (less than today). Stromboli has been active for all of her written history (300BC). Some vulcanologists believe she will one day explode with tremendous violence perhaps resulting in a "phreatomagmatic event" similar to the destruction of Krakatoa (2600' feet high). Krakatoa's tremendous blow out was caused by a steam explosion when inrushing sea water met super heated magma below sea level. A similar event at Stromboli could result in 200' Tsunamis at Sardinia.  The eruption of
Thera (now called Santorini) in 1650 BC was a phreatomagmatic event.


Dear Brian,

thank you for your message. Interesting to see the very well done description of your painting. Unfortunately I have either no idea who the artist might be, it is not one of the painters which I recognize from the style. Anyway it is a charming painting and the depiction of the vessel and sky is well done, the way he painted the water looks somewhat poor to me. This was surely no artist with any academic background, but one of the typical Italian or Maltese pierhead painters. Maybe the Kronborg Slot Maritime Museum http://www.maritime-museum.dk/ might be able to help you with identification of the vessel. Good luck with your further research.

Best regards, Karsten Buchholz

Dear Brian,
I am glad to tell you that you have acquired a portrait of the schooner "Walfrid" of Copenhagen. She was a fast running fruitcarrier built in Sweden 1864 and from 1865 owned by H. A.Clausen. We do not have more information but in 1869-70 she was mastered by capt.n Ipsen

Best wishes from
Hanne Poulsen
Kronborg Slot Maritime Museum

Pierhead Painter

blue white blue flag on the mainmast is a Two Sicilies Pilot Signal