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Mosman's Bay, Sydney Harbour

Date: 1875
Overall: 292 x 354 x 19 mm, 0.84 kg
Sight: 116 x 185 mm
Mount: 292 x 354 mm
Medium: Paper, board, watercolour paint.
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Watercolour
Object No: 00039386
Related Place:Mosman,

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    This watercolour painted by George Henry Brown depicts the emigrant ship ERATO anchored in Mosman Bay. The artist was a 15 year old apprentice on the ship when it visited Sydney in 1875. Like Brown, seamen often documented their time at the ports of call, recording impressions in sketches and watercolours. Their intimate familiarity with these vessels meant that their ship portraits were often particularly accurate.
    SignificanceThe painting is a representative depiction of the type of ships which carried cargo and emigrants to Australia in the 19th century. It is a rare document recording a seaman's artistic response to his ship in a foreign landscape, and provides a glimpse into the life and hobbies of a ship apprentice during this period.
    HistoryThe name of the ship is not shown in the painting. The company flag on the mainmast is, however, clearly depicted and can be identified as that of J Lidgett & Sons of London. The only ship of this line to visit Sydney in 1875 was ERATO. The name George Henry Brown appears on the crew list of the ship as an apprentice, aged 15, coming from London. He is presumably the artist of the painting, with the accuracy and detail of the ship's depiction suggesting a significant knowledge of the vessel. Brown was still on the ship as apprentice when it returned to Sydney in 1878.

    'Morsman's Bay' in the title most likely refers to Mosman Bay. In the 19th century it was known as Mossman's or Mosman's Bay. It is possible that 'Morsman' resulted form the artist hearing the name spoken by someone with a broad regional English or foreign accent. The depiction of Mosman Bay is not readily recognisable because the artist has exaggerated the height of the two spurs of land forming Cremorne Point, almost suggesting a mountainous hinterland not found around Sydney Harbour. Examining the watercolour against other depictions of Mosman Bay the position of the ship can be pinpointed halfway along the eastern foreshore, near present day Musgrave Street Wharf, with the artist's viewpoint from near the present Mosman Wharf looking southwards. It seems possible that Brown may have finished painting the background some time after the ship had left the mooring at Mosman Bay, and therefore did not have a visual reference.

    The 1201 ton ERATO was a full-rigged iron ship built in 1864 by Ramsey Shipbuilding Company, Isle of Man. It was originally built for Wakefield & Co, Liverpool, and was sold twice before being bought by Lidgett's in 1875. In 1884 it was sold to Foley & Co of London, was sold again to a Swedish owner in 1892, and ended life in 1864, stranded off Denmark. During its time with Lidgett's ERATO made several voyages to Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide carrying cargo and emigrants.
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