Painting of the American Clipper Ship Coeur de Lion

In the center, the American clipper ship Coeur de Lion sails from left to right in the standard pose of the classic portrait of a ship entering port. The main and topsails are set, except for the mizzen mainsail, which is furled to air the spanker (for steerage). At the ship’s head flies the inner jib; all other sails are either furled or being taken in. House, signal, and American flags fly from all three masts and the spanker gaff. Six crew are visible on deck; whimsically, one is waving to the artist (or viewer) from his post amidships. In the left foreground, a small, two-masted Chinese boat approaches Coeur de Lion; in the background is the port of Hong Kong. Numerous Western sailing vessels and steamships are anchored at port in the background.
Currently not on view
Physical Description
wood (frame material)
overall: 94 cm x 128.5 cm x 4.5 cm; 37 in x 50 9/16 in x 1 3/4 in
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Gift of Mr. William Lilly, New York, New York
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Work and Industry: Maritime
Cultures & Communities
Engineering, Building, and Architecture
Data Source
National Museum of American History


The signal flags are deciphered to mean: "I have headway, I am engaged in speed trials and in formation departing "
"Wm F Parrott was the owner of Coeur de Lion out of Boston. The flag at the top of the main mast came down to my family through his niece who was my great grandmother, Hannah Parker Parrott... We had a family feud over the orientation of the flag - whether the red rectangles escalate up or down... I am delighted to see this painting because it settles the argument and I will now fly the flag in the orientation shown in this painting. "

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