Painting, Tea Clipper

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The house flag displayed on the mainmast identifies the owner of the unidentified clipper ship as Thomas Wardle, a New York merchant. In 1848, he took over as operator of the Charleston Ship Line after the former operator, George Sutton, died. The Charleston Line provided regular service between Charleston, South Carolina and New York, participating heavily in the cotton trade. Wardle, however, was not only involved in the Charleston Line ships. He owned or partially owned several clipper ships including San Francisco, Extreme, and Adelaide. According to the New York Daily Times article "Our Shipyards" August 13, 1853, San Francisco, built by Abraham C. Bell in New York, was intended for the California and China trades. Another source places Wardle in the East Indies and California service around 1840 with a slight variation on his house flag. The painting shows clipper ship, junks, and other small Chinese craft in a busy harbor. Human figures can be seen on the junks, including the captain of the American ship, who is using a spyglass to see the shore. A rocky landscape is in the background. Flying an ensign of 1848 on the mainmast, the ship was probably painted while docked at Whampoa.
Sunqua was a 19th century Chinese painter. He was one of the better-known Chinese artisans, although paintings by him are rare. He is known for painting Western ships in Chinese ports.
Currently not on view
date made
ca 1840
Physical Description
oil on canvas (overall material)
without frame: 28 in x 38 in; 71.12 cm x 96.52 cm
with frame: 36 in x 46 3/4 in; 91.44 cm x 118.745 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Gift of CIGNA Museum and Art Collection
See more items in
Work and Industry: Maritime
Cigna Maritime Collection
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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