St. Augustine Yacht Club at Plaza Basin, St. Augustine Florida
Frank Henry Shapleigh Dated 1888
Oil on canvas
10 x 16 Inches
Framed: 18 3/4 x 25 Inches Framed
Inscription: LL: F.H. Shapleigh, 1888
Provenance: Provenance: Private New York Collection
Note: This colorful view of St. Augustine’s Harbor, off Matanzas Bay is a step back into 19th Century Florida. Artist Frank Shapleigh was charmed by the historic city, already more than 300 years old in his time, and was inspired to create vibrant scenes of its city life and many tourist attractions. Here, Shapleigh paints the waterfront at Plaza Basin which sat at the end of Basin Street between Bay (or Marine Street) and Charlotte.
In the center, sailing vessels of the St. Augustine Yacht Club sit in a small protected mooring and launch area. To the left, a cart driver waters his horse and two nearby figures take their ease, sitting on the city’s coquina limestone sea wall. The sea wall, a historic feature to this day, protected the homes and businesses along the shore, its stones quarried from nearby Anastasia Island.
To the left a gentleman with a walking stick and a fine lady in a large white hat outside the turquoise exterior of La Flor de Cuba Cigar Depot. Cigars are made under this name today, though it’s unknown if this is an outlet of the same company.
Following the buildings to the right, we see signs advertising Dr. Vedder’s Museum and Managerie, which could be found in a Spanish era colonial building a few doors down. Vedder was an amateur naturalist and taxidermist who collected live and stuffed specimens of mainly Florida wildlife including reptiles, fish and birds. Sensational advertisements for his museum mentioned “monsters” of land and sea and along with souvenirs he sold live alligators, boxed for shipment. A period advertisement for his museum is shown here along with a period map of the waterfront and an engraving for historical reference.
In the distance, beyond the house bearing Vedder’s signs, we see Fort Marion. Built by the Spanish in 1672 when Florida was part of the Spanish Empire and then named Castillo de San Marcos, Fort Marion is the oldest masonry fort in the continental United States. Two ladies and gentleman look down the waterfront to admire the view. Just beyond them is the dock leading out to the St. Augustine Yacht Club House.
It is easy to see the influence of the Barbizon school in Shapleigh’s rich tonal hues and softness of form throughout the painting. At the same time, the painting is full of detail- from the deep grooves left in the dirt road by wagon wheels, to the many unique architectural details all which bring the city to life. This painting is an important image of historical St. Augustine by the man considered the best artist to paint the city in his time.
Signed and Titled Verso: Vedder's Corner, St. Augustine, Florida, F.H. Shapleigh
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