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THE TRANSATLANTIC MAGAZINE

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1040 Abroad

HMS Resolute Painting on Sale In London

Wood from the Resolute was gifted to America in the form of a desk, which has been used in the Oval Office by most presidents since Rutherford B Hayes

Published on November 2, 2020

HMS Resolute Oil Painting The Resolute Abandoned and Drifting Out, by J Hamer. Courtesy Christie’s.

An oil painting of HMS Resolute, the ship which gave its wood to the Resolute Desk, is on sale this week at Christie's London, just as Americans go to the polls to decide who gets to sit behind the famous Oval Office desk from 2021.

HMS Resolute was one of many vessels involved in the Franklin Search expeditions during the 1850s, when UK vessels were sent to search for the lost expedition of Captain John Franklin who had set sail in 1845 to find the Northwest Passage. The ship was trapped in ice in the spring of 1845, and the painting on sale at Christie's, by J Hamer, shows the Resolute abandoned and adrift in the Canadian Arctic.

American whalers later found the Resolute, which was then purchased by the United States Congress for $40,000. Once refitted, the ship sailed back to the UK and was given as a gift to Queen Victoria. After serving in the Royal Navy, the ship was retired in 1879 and later salvaged for timber. Part of the salvaged wood was used to create three desks, one of which was presented to President Rutherford B Hayes in 1880 as a thank you to America for finding and returning the ship. The desk has been used by most US Presidents since, except for Lyndon B Johnson, Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. It was returned to the Oval Office in 1977 while Jimmy Carter was in office, and aside from during the presidency of George H.W. Bush, has been the official Oval Office desk to this day.

The Hamer painting, which is predicted to sell for between £20k and £30k, is part of Christie's Topographical Pictures sale, which closes Thursday November 5.

For details on Hamer's painting of HMS Resolute, go to onlineonly.christies.com/s/topographical-pictures-including-china-trade-paintings/j-hamer-19th-century-1/102667

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