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silla was born out of a passion for beautiful objects: special pieces with aesthetic and historical significance. In 2009, after years of collecting, Andrew Silla and his wife Grace began to work privately with clients from their residence in Southern Maryland. Quickly outgrowing the space, the business was moved from Maryland to Pennsylvania in 2012 and after several warehouse location changes it was firmly settled in the present brick-and-mortar location in downtown Shippensburg.

The 9000 square foot brick-and-mortar gallery is home to a large collection of works of art and estate jewelry. We specialize in sculpture circa 1860 through 1930 with a particular emphasis on the Animaliers and as such the gallery always has a very large collection of exceptional European and American sculpture available on display.

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Four-Masted Sailing Ship "County of Peebles" in Rough Seas (1900) | Lai Fong

Fong of Calcutta, Lai

Regular Price: $11,900.00
Gallery Price: $10,500.00
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Hong Kong/India, active 1875-1910

Four-Masted Sailing Ship "County of Peebles" in Rough Seas (1900)

Oil on canvas | signed lower right "Lai Fong / Calcutta / 1900"

Item # 403CFP11A 

An exquisitely developed and minutely detailed China Trade painting, it depicts The County of Peebles in rough waters with a single crew member above-board while waves crest at heights well over the deck. A classic example of late 19th-century naval architecture, the ship is rendered with precise lines and attention to the complex rigging system. It is a testament to Fong’s incredible observational skills brought to life with an adept hand capable of rendering even the most minute elements of the translucent roping, the curves and construction of the railing, the lifeboats on board and the detailing of the decks. The vessel's hull, a deep russet tone, contrasts brilliantly against the white of the billowing sails - these are depicted fully unfurled to evoke the powerful winds driving the vessel through the crashing waves.

The sky above is dark and menacing, but it is a hopeful scene as the vessel is emerging from the storm with the sun’s soft rays piercing the clouds on the right side of the image. The light falls through the waves to create a vibrant teal in the water, a sharp contrast against the near black of the lower waters.

This painting was last on the open market in 2003 when it was offered from a private collection by Christie's in New York (achieved $ 9560 USD) and has remained in a private collection for the last two decades. It is signed in the lower right in Lai Fong's typical script and is dated to the turn of the century.

The County of Peebles, a noteworthy example of a four-masted iron ship, was constructed in 1875 by the shipbuilding firm Barclay, Curle & Co. in Glasgow, Scotland. This vessel, notable for its significant size and construction, measured 266 feet 6 inches in length, 38 feet 7 inches in breadth, and 23 feet 4 inches in depth, with a gross registered tonnage of 1,691. Its design incorporated royal sails above double top and single topgallant sails, covering a total sail area of approximately 30,610 square feet.

Launched in July 1875, the County of Peebles was initially commissioned for R & J Craig, a Glasgow-based company. The ship's first captain was A. Miller. Throughout the 1880s and 1890s, this vessel engaged in maritime voyages primarily between Scotland, England, and India, traversing various shipping routes. In 1887, Captain J. Murdoch assumed the role of ship's master, guiding the County of Peebles through several years of active service.

By the end of the 19th century, the ship underwent a significant transition. In 1898, the County of Peebles was sold to the Chilean Navy and subsequently renamed Munoz Gamero. Following its acquisition by Chile, the ship's role evolved from an active seafaring vessel to a more stationary function. It was beached at Punta Arenas, where it was repurposed for use as a dock and breakwater.

In its later years, the County of Peebles/Munoz Gamero underwent restoration efforts. While the lower masts and deck have been maintained, the ship's interior has seen preservation work carried out by the Chilean Navy. This historical vessel now serves as an entertainment area, offering a glimpse into the maritime heritage of the late 19th century and the enduring legacy of ships like the County of Peebles in naval history.

Lai Fong was a distinguished Chinese artist who specialized in marine paintings, primarily ship portraits, and was active predominantly in the last quarter of the 19th century. Born in Hong Kong, he later migrated to Calcutta, India, where he established himself as a leading pier head painter. This relocation marked a significant deviation from the norm, as most of his contemporaries in the China Trade school of painting were based in locations such as Canton, Whampoa, Hong Kong, or Shanghai.

Fong's career spanned from approximately the mid-1870s to around 1905, a period during which he painted vessels from various parts of the world. His works are characterized by a unique blend of the European and American conventions of ship portrait painting with the China Trade oil painting style that developed post-1800. He was particularly adept at capturing the essence of four-masted barques, which were commonly featured in his paintings. Unlike many China Trade painters who often left their works unsigned or undated, Lai Fong regularly dated his canvases, providing a clearer timeline of his active years as an artist.

His meticulous attention to detail and scrupulously accurate depictions of ships gained him considerable renown. Interestingly, Lai Fong's artistic choices often led him to forgo featuring coastal landscapes in his work, preferring instead to focus on portraying ships on their ocean-bound journeys.

Throughout his career, Lai Fong's contributions were significant in bridging cultural and artistic traditions, while his specialization in ship portraits marked him as a notable figure within the marine art scene of the late 19th century. His work not only reflects the rich maritime history of the time but also showcases a unique fusion of artistic styles from different parts of the world.


  • Christie's, New York, 21 January 2003, lot 361, achieved $ 9560 USD

Measurements: 18 3/8" H x 24 1/4" W x 1 3/8" D [frame]; 10" H x 16" W [canvas]

Condition Report:
Trace edge wear around the extreme edges from frame rubbing, more notably top left corner; we have elected not to send this painting out for conservation, as the surface remains vibrant and clear and only presents with very minimal grime in the varnish layer, but we can certainly have it cleaned upon request; moderate craquelure throughout the scene, the paint layer remaining stable; relined; frame is 20th century and presents with only minor blemishes. A very fine presentation.