He became a specialist of the Grand Tour images on which his deeply glowing romantic skies illuminated easily recognizable landscapes, mostly but not only by the sea. He maintained throughout his career this Mediterranean imaging which opened to him the access to lucrative exhibitions in Europe.
An oil on canvas 109 x 132 cm dated 1873 assesses his attentive interest in maritime events.
In December 1872 a two-masted American ship named Mary Celeste was found abandoned at sea between Azores and Portugal. The lifeboat was gone but the cargo had not been looted. The ghost ship was conducted to Gibraltar where it was awaiting the outcome of the judicial investigation.
Aivazovsky's painting is titled American shipping off the Rock of Gibraltar. Far away in the mist, the steep profile of the rock is perfectly recognizable. The rough seas are shaking the tall ship while a lifeboat filled to the brim by sailors adds an epic dimension into the forefront.
This painting was sold for £ 2.7 million including premium by Christie's in London on 13 June 2007. It comes back in the same auction room on June 1, lot 53 estimated £ 2M.
No seafarer from the Mary Celeste was ever retrieved and the mystery was never cleared up.
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