skip to Main Content

Bon Voyage!

“Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board.”

– Zora Neale Hurston

97. Guion Line / New York. 1885.
Artist: Anonymous
22 3/8 x 34 3/8 in./56.7 x 87.2 cm
Est: $1,700-$2,000.

If your ancestors emigrated from Europe to the United States in the 1870s-1880s, it’s likely they sailed aboard one of the Guion Line’s Royal Mail Steamers; Guion was one of the top three immigrant-transport companies during that period. The center engraving features the “First Class Full-powered Iron Screw Steamers” of which the Arizona and Alaska were two: acquired by Guion in the early 1880s they had each won the “Blue Riband” for fastest westbound crossing. The Arizona is likely not cleared for sailing because it had run into an iceberg, crunching the first 25 feet of its bow.

180. Normandie/New York/Exposition Universelle. 1939.
Artist: A.M. Cassandre
24 1/4 x 38 7/8 in./61.5 x 98.8 cm
Est: $10,000-$12,000.

Cassandre’s awe-inspiring design commands the covers of many books on the artist, and on the Art Deco period. It’s been endlessly referenced – from Razzia’s ads for Louis Vuitton to a sly poster for Iron Man and Stark Industries. But this is the original design, a thing of sublime simplicity, power and grace. It would take the skills of France’s finest Art Deco posterist to capture the magnificence of the S.S. Normandie, widely known as the nautical zenith of Art Deco’s aspirations. Interiors were designed as extravagant fusions of French elegance and avant-garde art. The Grand Salon was famed for its Jean Dupas glass-panel murals. The First-Class Dining Hall was longer than the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, and adorned similarly. The children’s dining room featured murals of Babar the Elephant by Jean de Brunhoff. This variant was created for the New York World’s Fair of 1939. Rare!

146. French Line/Normandie. ca. 1938.
Artist: Montague Birrel Black
24 7/8 x 39 1/2 in./63.2 x 100.5 cm
Est: $6,000-$7,000.

An entirely different perspective on the SS Normandie than Cassandre (No. 180), but perhaps a different impression of the ship’s grandeur as she slides past a lighthouse and tug beneath a tumultuous sky. In 1938, she was beaten in the race to the fastest transatlantic crossing, so Black shifted focus to the overall service proposition (“NO better ships,” etc). Rare!

121. Navigazione-Venezia. 1936.
Artist: Anonymous
24 1/2 x 36 1/2 in./62.3 x 92.8 cm
Est: $1,400-$1,700.

Aye, aye, captain. The Lion of St. Marks guards the bold Deco lines of the cruise ship “Adriatica,” and its mate, for voyages along the Adriatic coast. See a second poster for the ship created a year later, lot No. 181.

181. Adriatica. 1937.
Artist: Cenni
24 1/2 x 39 1/4 in./62.2 x 99.6 cm
Est: $2,500-$3,000.

A second poster for the ship “Adriatica” (see No. 121) a year later and by the named artist Cenni, converges Modernist and ancient tropes to give us an electrically charged and raked perspective on the Venus de Milo.

108. United American Lines. ca. 1922.
Artist: Anonymous
26 7/8 x 39 in./68.2 x 99 cm
Est: $2,000-$2,500.

This superb Art Deco design reflects a unique moment in international commerce following World War I. The Hamburg-America Line had been the exclusive passenger-ship link between Europe and North America from 1847. (A lot of immigrants arrived aboard their ships.) But they lost virtually their entire fleet during the Great War. The newly-formed United American Lines, Inc. swooped in for a joint business and marketing arrangement. Their new ship, the S.S. Resolute, a 20,000-tonner bought from Royal Holland Lloyd, was named after the 1920 America’s Cup-winning yacht. (It’s depicted here to solidify the connection.) Unfortunately, when immigration was sharply curtailed in the mid-1920s, United American was forced to sell to Hamburg-America. The consolidated company later became the shipping conglomerate Hapag-Lloyd.

300. Ginnastica Lucerna. 1928.
Artist: Ottomar Anton
19 1/2 x 27 1/4 in./49.5 x 69.3 cm
Est: $2,000-$2,500.

By 1926, HAPAG had bought out all the assets of its former ally, North American Lines (see No. 108), and returned to form as the major shipping link between America and Europe. This fine, Expressionist-inflected illustration asserts, “Regular and freight services to all ports of the world. . . Meditation and recreation trips. . .travel around the world.”

345. Maritime Belge.
Artist: L. Royan
24 1/2 x 39 1/8 in./62.2 x 99.5 cm
Est: $1,700-$2,000.

While we can’t determine a date for this poster, it has the distinct flavor of exotic, worldly travels in the 1930s. Compagnie Maritime Belge, founded in 1895, is one of Antwerp’s oldest shipping companies, and for 60 years their boats transited between Antwerp (Anvers) and the Congo. At lower left is the unmistakable image of the Cathedral of Our Lady in Antwerp.

217. Services Express. 1935.
Artist: Lucio Fontana
24 x 37 1/2 in./61 x 95.2 cm
Est: $3,000-$4,000.

Italia Cosulich Shipping makes this play for the French market by claiming “Express Services for the Whole World.” The stark, minimalist visual – a steamer cutting a clear blue line through the equator of a darkened hemisphere – communicates entire worlds, without using a single extraneous word. This is the French-language version.

178. Italia-Cosulich. 1936.
Artist: A.M. Cassandre
23 7/8 x 37 1/4 in./60.7 x 94.6 cm
Est: $7,000-$9,000.

Taking a bold emotional tone from Italian Futurism, Cassandre’s effort comes one year after Lucio Fontana’s, above. It imagines imagines Italia-Cosulich’s fleet as a series of great Modernist waves about to cascade upon the latitudes of the aquatic globe. Founded in 1903 as the Austro-American Line, the company ferried passengers from the cosmopolitan Trieste of James Joyce and Italo Svevo to Palermo, Messina, New York, Naples – and later, South America and and New Orleans. Following World War I, Trieste was annexed to Italy, changing the company’s name. A year after this printing, it would become The Italian Line.

Back To Top