The convict ship "Phoebe Dunbar" in Kingston Harbour, Ireland shown in 1853. TRANSPORTATION, The Honourable Henry Cavendish BUTLER.
The convict ship "Phoebe Dunbar" in Kingston Harbour, Ireland shown in 1853

The convict ship "Phoebe Dunbar" in Kingston Harbour, Ireland…
The convict ship "Phoebe Dunbar" in Kingston Harbour, Ireland shown in 1853

Ireland: c.1880.

Watercolour, 300 x 480 mm; mounted and framed.

A floating prison whose journey ahead will be the last of its kind

The Honourable Henry Cavendish Butler was born in Belburbet, County Cavan, Ireland, on 2 June 1868, the second son of the Anglo-Irish peer John Vansittart Danvers Butler, 6th Earl of Lanesborough (1839-1905), a retired Royal Navy lieutenant-commander and his wife Anne, Countess Lanesborough (1845-1909); the Lanesboroughs resided in 'Lanesborough Lodge' in County Cavan and 'Swithland Hall' in Leicestershire.. Around the time young Henry painted his watercolour, he was a boarder at Mr. Chignell's School in Dover. Kingstown Harbour (now Dun Laoghaire) would have been well-known to the Lanesboroughs. It was the departure and arrival port for the Holyhead Packet steamship service, by which they travelled between Ireland and the British mainland.

The Honourable Henry Cavendish Butler was born in Belburbet, County Cavan, Ireland, on 2 June 1868, the second son of the Anglo-Irish peer John Vansittart Danvers Butler, 6th Earl of Lanesborough (1839-1905), a retired Royal Navy lieutenant-commander and his wife Anne, Countess Lanesborough (1845-1909); the Lanesboroughs resided in 'Lanesborough Lodge' in County Cavan and 'Swithland Hall' in Leicestershire.. Around the time young Henry painted his watercolour, he was a boarder at Mr. Chignell's School in Dover. Kingstown Harbour (now Dun Laoghaire) would have been well-known to the Lanesboroughs. It was the departure and arrival port for the Holyhead Packet steamship service, by which they travelled between Ireland and the British mainland.

The artist's depiction of vessels in Kingstown Harbour is not a representation of Kingstown Harbour as he might have seen it in 1880. Instead, it is a depiction of the Harbour at an historic moment, whose focal point is the large, three-mast convict ship in the centre of the painting. This is Kingstown Harbour between mid-May and early June 1853. The convict ship, identifiable by the contemporaneous presence of other named vessels, is the Phoebe Dunbar – the last convict ship to depart Kingstown Harbour, and indeed Ireland, with convicts bound for Australia.

It is probable that the 12-year-old Henry Butler used a previous artist's annotated sketch or other visual and written information to compose his painting. Possibly his father, as a former Royal Navy lieutenant commander, advised him. According to the back of the painting, the scene was captured from 3 Haddington Terrace, Kingstown, though it is unclear whether that address was relevant to the initial 1853 image, Butler's 1880 work, or both.

Butler's fascinating watercolour leaves a valuable record of two worlds. On the one hand, there is the clear, vibrant world of dynamic, industrious Kingston Harbour: depicted are the racing yachts Cynthia, Fantasy, Nymph, Atalanta, Emerald and others, all regulars at Royal St George Yacht Club regattas. The Prince Arthur packet steamer visibly plies its regular route between Dublin and Holyhead, the former HMS Wolf, moored alongside the East Pier, serves as a coal depot hulk. While the watercolour is delightfully pleasing and fascinating in its details, the convict ship Phoebe Dunbar sits at the centre, tempering the colourful aspects of the image with sobering reality: a floating prison whose immediate journey ahead will be the last of its kind.

The Phoebe Dunbar had sailed into harbour in the week of 16 May 1853 and left for the Swan River Colony (now Perth) on Friday evening, 3 June 1853, with 295 male convicts and some 93 passengers aboard. Typhus, cholera and scurvy spread aboard and accounted for 16 deaths on the voyage and three more deaths soon after arrival in Fremantle on 30 August 1853.

Young Henry Cavendish Butler's watercolour of the 'Phoebe Dunbar' in bustling Kingstown Harbour is a remarkable record, and a reminder of the six decades during which people of Ireland were transported from their homeland.

Inscribed by various hands on the reverse of the watercolour, and on the old backing board, and on a horizontal strip of paper previously attached below the image which is now affixed to the new backing board. Inscriptions include the title 'Kingstown Harbour from No 3 Haddington Ter[race]. Hon. Henry Cavendish Butler del. circa 1880' and the names of various vessels, including 'Mount Bay' [fishing boat]; 'Kit' [revenue cruiser]; 'Prince Arthur'[Holyhead Packet]; 'Bermuda'; 'Wolf' [coal hulk]; 'French boat, alongside 'Wolf' hulk'; 'Emerald'; 'Convict ship' ['Phoebe Dunbar']; 'Fantasy'; 'Atalanta'; 'SS Belfast Office'; Cynthia; 'Nymph'; 'Moon'.

Provenance: Honourable Henry Cavendish Butler (1868-1950); private collection, Sydney.

Condition Report: Very good.

Price (AUD): $18,500.00

US$13,224.66   Other currencies

Ref: #5000588

Condition Report