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The sailing packet 'Duchess of Athol'

Date made: 1813

Artist: unknown artist

Description: The sailing packet 'Duchess of Athol', 1833. This painting offers important detail on this craft which in its era (before a regular steam ship service) was the lifeline between the Isle of Man and the ports of the Lancashire coast. She is particularly well documented in surviving newspaper accounts. The artist has captured significant detail of the structure and design of the vessel, in particular her ornate stern. The figures on board are rendered in such detail that, as well as providing important evidential value on styles of dress at the time, they may even represent named individuals. In short this painting is a rare example of an illustration of Manx commercial shipping in the Napoleonic Wars era. Indeed it is possibly our earliest depiction of a named vessel.

This painting is currently on display in our National Art Gallery at the Manx Museum in a section dedicated to explaining how we conserve our artworks. It came into our collection in a poor state and in the gallery it will have a label explaining how we might fix such damage:

Chris Weeks, Collections Care and Conservation Manager for Manx National Heritage writes:

This painting is not in a glazed frame and is exceedingly dirty, which obscures the detail. It isn’t easy to clean paintings like this without dissolving some of the paint or loosening it on the canvas. We usually send paintings like this off-island for cleaning and conservation by specialists.

In addition to the dirt, at some point in its history it has suffered a puncture. This is a common fate for an old painting because their canvases are often thin and very weak. The treatment for a small hole such as this would be either ‘strip-lining’ (a little bit like a bicycle puncture repair) or ‘re-weaving’, which involves closing the hole by re-weaving the threads under the microscope. The closed hole would then be filled with gesso and re-touched with paints that can easily be dissolved should future custodians wish it.

Measurements: unframed artwork: 64.5 cm x 92 cm

Materials: oil on canvas

Object name: painting

Collection: Art Collection

ID number: L20231

Subject tags : #artgallerydamaged


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