Ship portraits

Within the Museum’s pictorial collection, the selection of ship portraits is especially notable. This type of painting is very common to maritime museums but also to private homes, where families keep images of the ships owned or commanded by their ancestors.

A ship portrait is a painting that seeks to represent a specific vessel as faithfully as possible, a sort of photograph of the craft. They aim to identify and characterize a specific ship, with its name, company flag, and generally an identifying legend or a reference to a person or event. Generally, these are signed by extremely prolific painters (Pineda, Evans, Mongay, Amat, Martí Barrionuevo, etc.) and dated. In these pieces, what is most important is to faithfully show the ship, while aesthetic concerns are secondary. Even the background, be it the open sea or a port, is of lesser importance.

Curiously, the great era of ship portraits coincided with the development of photography. Using a camera it is very difficult to capture a ship under sail, seen from the side and in great detail, while painters can do this without much difficulty.