Straight to a Bonham’s Travel and Exploration sale from earlier this year for a rare maritime watercolour.
This shows the barque Christian of Grangemouth offloading goods at Riga.
Painted in 1828 by Charles Slie, it shows a view of Riga with its cathedral and church spires, windmill and bridge, looking across the Daugava river, with the Christian in the foreground.
Some 22 x 24 inches, the picture is signed ‘Charles Slie, Paintet, to Riga 1828.’
An almost identical view of Riga but with a different ship, the Melona of Dundee, by Slie is held by the Altonaer Museum in Hamburg. The Melona plied between Dundee and St Petersburg from 1821.
The Baltic ports were important to Dundee’s story. While most handlooms remained close to running water in the town’s rural northern hinterland, the first two hand-weaving factories for the low-status linen called osnaburg were noted in Dundee in 1742.
Supported by raw flax imports from Riga and St Petersburg, a rush to establish new water-driven looms occurred. In just 30 years – between 1740 and 1770 – the two hand-weaving factories in the town mushroomed to over seventy.
Then, when steam-powered technology struck at the heart of Dundee’s hand-loom industry in the 1820s – a dozen new power mills in 1821-22 alone – more raw material was required and venture capitalists took advantage of the town’s outstanding location for Baltic trade.
Shipping records show regular connections to Archangel for flax from the growing areas north of Moscow, large imports from St Petersburg when the White Sea was frozen, and quantities of cheaper flax from Latvia and Estonia, shipped through Riga by the likes of the Christian.
The picture sold at Bonham’s for £3187 inclusive of premium.
Picture: The Christian at Riga by Charles Slie, £3187 (Bonham’s).