Little is known of this talented artist; like other marine painters Bygrave may have had his start as a sign or ornamental painter, and he may have received training in Italy as well. Not only was he capable of rendering the complicated shapes and rigging of the Bounding Billow, but he was at ease depicting the flurry of activity along the waterfront, thereby transforming a classic ship portrait into a charming genre scene of the lively Italian port. Indeed, Bark ‘Bounding Billow’ Leaving Messina may have been painted for American travelers looking for a souvenir of their trip abroad.
More information about this painting...
Bounding Billow was a bark clipper, constructed in Chelsea, Massachusetts, in 1854, by distinguished local shipbuilder Jotham Stetson (1794-1876). Born in Scituate, Stetson came from a long line of shipbuilders and had crafted over thirty varying vessels at his Medford shipyard situated along the Mystic River before relocating to nearby Chelsea in 1853. The ship’s first owners were Ephraim Lombard and Josiah H. Conant and her first master was Levi Smith; by 1859, when Bygrave painted her departing the port of Messina, she was captained by Darins (possibly Darius) K. Small, according to his inscription in the lower left corner. The Bounding Billow would sail around the globe for over four decades, and in her later years was outfitted for the whaling trade before being dismantled in San Francisco in 1896. Bygrave’s work rarely comes on the market, making Bark ‘Bounding Billow’ Leaving Messina an admirable addition to a marine-themed collection.
Collection, Old Lyme, Connecticut
With Vose Galleries, Boston, inventory no. 30307, July 1991
To private collection, Osterville, Massachusetts, March 1993
With Vose Galleries, Boston, inventory no. 31766, May 1996
Returned to private collection, Osterville, September 1997
With Vose Galleries, Boston, inventory no. 32978, August 1999
To private collection, Wellesley and later Belmont, Massachusetts, November 2001 to present
Inscribed lower left: Bark Bounding Billow / Leving (sic) Messina / Darins K. Small Master
1). Previous Vose Galleries label, inventory no. 31766
2). Previous Vose Galleries label, inventory no. 32978
3). (sticker) Museum of Fine Arts / Boston, MA 02115 / (typed) T401.1.1991 / (typed) W. Bygrave / (typed) Bark Leaving / (typed) Messina