Painting by W.Petrus of a US ship

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      I have been asked to comment on a reverse-glass painting, apparently the work of early 19th Century Dutch artist Weyts Petrus.
      The painting, typical of Petrus’ work, shows a ship-rigged vessel under near full sail, off what appears to be Flushing. According to details of the painting’s provenance, the vessel is ‘American privateer Belvedere‘ and she is indeed portrayed as flying an unusual variation of the US ensign at the gaff. However, I have been unable to find any reference to an American privateer of this name having taken any British prizes during the War of Independance or the later outbreak of hostilities with Great Britain. Of course, this does not preclude her having been an unsuccessful privateer!
      In addition to the ensign at the gaff, she is flying a flag showing the blue canton of the ensign (2 concentric five-pointed stars) at the foremast peak. At the mainmast peak she is flying a large swallow-tail flag, red at the fly and white at the hoist, with a red dot on the white ground. At the mizzen peak she is flying a 4-letter group – white triangular flag bearing a red disc (as modern IT Code 1) above a white swallow-tail with a red square at the centre, above a red swallow-tail (modern IT Code B) above a rectangular flag with two white and two red cantons, white over red at the hoist (reverse modern IT code U). Less obviously, she appears to be flying a long red and white striped pennant at the end of the jib-boom.
      She is painted black with a white band in way of “gunports” and has very fine lines with a pronounced counter. Most unusually, she has her main and mizzen masts raked aft and the foremast raked conspicuously forward.

      I would welcome any comments as to the vessel’s identity and the flags and signal she is displaying.


        Petrus Weyts, 1799-1855, Ostend ship portratist

        A search on Google turns up lots of hits. He was a painter of “Captains’ Pictures”, which were sold to the masters of visiting vessels. His method was to paint the vessel on reverse on glass. Examples of his work are to be seen at the Altonaer Museum, along with those of his son Carolus Ludovicus, 1826-1876, who followed him into the business. Less common are works by his other son, Ignatius Jan Weyts, 1840-1889, who also use the reverse glass technique.


        Books on the subject of continental ”pierhead artists” include:


        • Werner Timm: Kapitänsbilder, 1971
        • Karsten Buchholz: Ship Portrait Artists, 1997.



        See further:


        According to this last source, many of his paintings are unsigned, and fakes with the signaure “P.Weyts” are not unknown in America.

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