The ship 'Matilda' and cutter 'Zephyr'

(Updated October 2019). Ship portrait. Oil painting entitled 'The ship "Matilda" and cutter "Zephyr"', the ships being identified by the names on the flags shown. These are common names but the painting is from the Green Collection and George Green did own a South Sea whaler called 'Matilda', which he bought in 1829-30 to begin his involvement in that trade. It first figures in Lloyds Register for 1830 as of 483 tons, built in one of the Royal Dockyards in 1813 and insured as class E1 for voyages from London to the South Seas: what the Navy built and previously used it as is not yet clear but possibly a ship-rigged sloop. Both Green and his father-in-law William Perry, in whose Blackwall yard he was first apprenticed and in which he later became partner and head of himself, commissioned paintings of ships which they built or owned, so this is fairly certainly his 'Matilda'. The identification is supported by the green-painted boat on davits aft on her port side, and two or possibly three upturned on skids on deck, since these also look like whaleboats. The 'Zephyr' under her stern is almost certainly a pilot cutter operating out of Gravesend on the lower Thames, which is seen on the right, with Tilbury Fort on the left (north) bank. Most pantings of whalers show them well at sea, often in distant locations, so this is also an unusual location, perhaps marking the first or at least an early departure of 'Matilda' from the Thames in Green's ownership. The painting is signed by J. M. Huggins who was the elder of two artist sons of William John Huggins, who painted two other of Green's whalers for him, 'Vigilant' and 'Harpooner' (BHC3390). James Huggins was born on 17 May 1807, was still working in 1865 and died in late April 1870, aged 62, at 5 Stepney Street, Bethnal Green: he was buried in Victoria Park Cemetery, Hackney, on 2 May. He clearly learnt his trade from his father from the similarity of their styles, although almost nothing else is known of him. His younger brother John W. Huggins (baptized 1809) etched some drawings after their father's work into the 1830s.

Object Details

ID: BHC3481
Collection: Fine art; Special collections
Type: Painting
Display location: Not on display
Creator: Huggins, James Miller
Vessels: Matilda 1803; Zephyr
Date made: Probably 1830s
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Green Blackwall Collection
Measurements: Frame: 789 mm x 1091 mm x 56 mm;Painting: 660 mm x 760 mm

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