23 October 2009

House and Home: The Ship

A few weeks ago, Mrs. G discovered this gigantic old engraved print in (you guessed it) an undisclosed thrift location. Good thing she spotted it when she did, what with the old nautical stuff being something of the rage of late. $9.99 and a pain-in-the-*ss walk home, and this lovely bit of history was ours:

It took me about a week and a half to get this big thing up on the wall. When we bought it, the glass was filthy, on both sides, the frame was coming apart at all four corners, and the wire on the back was a mess of rust. A careful dis-assembly, cleaning, and re-assembly was undertaken, and the results are as you see them. After doing a bit of research, I've pretty well determined this vessel to be the S.S. Werra, pictured here:

S.S. Werra was a passenger ship operated by the Norddeutscher Lloyd Steamship Company (later Hapag-Lloyd...ever heard of them?). She sailed from 1882 until 1901, for a long time making the run from Genoa to New York. Plus 5 points for bringing my people across from the old country.

Of course, I can't be altogether certain of this. The only info on the print is the name of the Norddeutscher Lloyd company below the picture. I'm guessing this was some kind of advertisement, maybe meant to hang in the 19th century equivalent of a travel agents office. After searching through photos of all NDL's ships, the Werra is the only one that looks like a close match. Two smoke stacks, four masts...most of the others have either one or four stacks, or the wrong number of masts. Pretty close anyway, right?

It's not too clear in the photo, but in the lower right hand corner it reads "Engraved by John A. Lowell & Co. Boston U.S.A. Copyright 1889". That date is also consistent with the Werra. I actually think this thing might be that old. The print is highly detailed, and printed on what appears to be, in my far less than expert opinion, a very thick paper with a high content of cotton fiber. John A. Lowell & Co. was known primarily as a printer of Victorian post cards, but they did do some larger works such as this.

The frames really old, and has clearly seen better days. It appears to have suffered some water damage in a basement. Sure we could have it replaced, but I don't think we ever will. Besides the exorbitant cost involved in such a thing, the Mrs. and I just plain like it this way. Beat up but clean. I believe it's what the kids call "shabby chic". Now let's be clear about something. I understand and even appreciate what the term "shabby chic" means, but I deplore saying it. Makes me feel icky. Such a "look" (if that's even what it is) is perfectly acceptable when it applies to things like a 120 year old framed engraving that's been around the block a few times, but it doesn't fly when applied to cheap furniture at Target that had it's white paint scuffed at the corners in a Chinese sweat shop and actually has the words "Shabby Chic" on the tags. See why it makes me feel icky? I'm almost sorry I said it. Let's call this picture "distressed"...wait, that's just as bad. How about "old". Yeah, that's more like it.
As with clothing, "strong look" items like this tend to work best when paired against other items which are different, but simple, lending to a diverse and eclectic, yet cohesive whole:

Here we see the venereable S.S. Werra as she stans today, on a wall painted a dusty pale orange (our favorite color), above a 1970's vintage Steelcase conference room chair, and an angular modern bookshelf, reconfigured from an Ikea wall shelf I found in the trash on moving weekend in September, stacked with architecture books. A pretty cool interior vignette, if I do say so myself (just did). The little green chair is "the naughty chair". Parents of young kids will know what that means.

And speaking of the boy, let's talk logos for a second. Today I wore a pink university stripe Polo oxford. The boy wore a blue university stripe Polo oxford. He was so excited that we had the same shirt, mine pink and his blue, with the same "horsey" on it. So what if it's a corporate logo? The boy was excited to be dressed like his Dad, and I got all proud. Nothing bad about that, is there?


ADG said...

Looks great!

ScottyAlexander said...

That print's fantastic! I recently started my own nautical collection after several recent thrift finds and I'd kill for that piece. Congrats!

tintin said...

Take some snaps and email to them to an auction house with a decent books and prints expert. Freeman's in Philadelphia has a good one. They'll give you an estimate as to the value gratis. Not that you'd ever sell it. Strictly for insurance purposes.

Ebenezer Howard, Jr. said...

That is a nice print. Make sure that the backing is not wood or cardboard which will eventually stain the print with leaching acids. I'm as cheap as you are, and as fond of keeping found objects in their original condition but that is a valuable print and you should take care that all conservation issues in the matting and backing are seen to. Also, you can't use the term "shabby chic" because she trademarked it, throwing hundreds of thousands of ebayers into violation panic. She got hers, though, when her stores went bankrupt.

Pitboss12 said...

Great looking print. Instead calling it old maybe using the term aged?

I used to work with Hapag-LLoyd when I was in logisitics. They are a large container ship company out of Germany.

The Tyrant said...

That is so boss. Congratulations.

Old School said...

Great print.
Great story.

If I were you, I'd cook up a well-embellished tale about how the print came down to you from your people who came over on her. No harm whatsoever in doing so and it might allow you to give free rein to your imagination and come up with a nice piece of creative writing.

Giuseppe said...

Not bad,

Maybe something about an illegimate red headed uncle from Genoa, who, penniless, managed to buy his way into steerage with salami and home made wine....he gets himself into a fine pickle due to his proclivity for serenading the married women in first class with his mandolin....the whole thing is supposed to end in a gentleman's duel on the fore-deck at dawn, presided over by the Captain, but the wealthy gentleman wound up dead in the night, stabbed repeatedly with a dagger. Of course, everyone immediately blames the hot blooded Italian for foul play involving a knife, but old Zio Umberto swears he is innocent....he is thrown in the brig, but when the S.S. Werra reaches New York, Umberto will have his revenge, Genoa style......

Something like that?

Anonymous said...

A great find to be sure, but nothing has come close to your discovery of that $10 Barbour jacket. Truly, the holy-grail of thrifting.




heavy tweed jacket said...

I hope that you have it for many years and develop your own stor(ies) about it. From the size of the print I can see why the walk home was a bit, er, troublesome. Especially if the frame was falling apart. Tintin's right about the auction house idea. Excellent looking print and a great find!

Pigtown*Design said...

My new favourite term is "rough luxe", sort of a twist on shabby chic.

Congrats on the picture. Hapag-Lloyd is still a cargo container line. They call in Baltimore a couple of times a week.

Andrew M. said...

Get that thing to Antiques Roadshow! (my favorite PBS show by the way) I also happen to live near Grand Rapids, MI where that Herman Miller chair was made. I love Herman Miller furniture. I also like your sense of interior decorating style.