PAINTING – S.M.S. EMDEN – ENHANCED SILK THREAD
This is a fascinating painting of the S.M.S. Emden. The S.M.S. Emden was a Kleiner (Light) Cruiser that officially joined the Kaiserliche Marine in 1909. She saw most of her service in the East Asian Squadron (Ostasiengeschwader), which was headquartered in Tsingtao, China. Beginning in 1913, her commander was Korvettenkapitän Karl von Müller (1879-1923). With the outbreak of the war on 2 August 1914, the Emden was the first German ship to capture an Allied ship on 3 August 1914. At that time, the German East Asian Squadron, under the command of Vizeadmiral Graf Maximilian von Spee, had begun the long voyage back to Germany. Unfortunately for them, the bulk of the fleet was sunk during the Battle of the Falkland Islands in December 1914. The S.M.S. Emden, however, was detached from the Ostasiengeschwader to raid the Indian Ocean’s shipping lanes. She captured and/or sank nearly two dozen ships, including a Russian Cruiser and a French Destroyer. The S.M.S. Emden’s end came in November 1914, when she was outgunned and sunk by the RANS’ (Royal Australian Naval Service) H.M.S. Sydney. Von Müller was captured and sent to England. Due to poor health, he was released and returned to Germany as a hero. He was then awarded the Orden Pour le Mérite.
Today we are sharing with you a unique painting that probably came from China. During its colonial period, Imperial Germany had a substantial number of army and naval units based in China, from which their ships were dispatched all over Asia. This large number of soldiers and sailors created a demand for items commemorating their Asian service that they could take home and display once they returned to the Fatherland. These were akin to the veteran’s steins, pipes, canteens, and so on, that celebrated military service both in Germany and in the other colonies. Naturally, Chinese merchants were eager to satisfy this demand for a wide variety of patriotic commemoratives.
The painting that we are offering today was among the most beautiful and interesting of such items. I spoke with an expert on the veteran’s paintings that originated in China, who told me that a real cottage industry sprang up to produce these paintings. Different local artists contributed their skills to the overall presentation. First, the painting was produced on high-quality parchment. Paint was applied on the obverse to form the basic background of sky and clouds. The paint was also a superior variety that produced a luminescent image. Next, certain portions of it were stitched with silk thread. This process is seen in particular on the German warship (depicted in profile). The detail to the ship is most impressive. The silk stitching appears throughout its guns, funnels, lifeboats, rigging and flags. Then the ocean beneath the ship is also composed of silk stitches. Finally, the name S.M.S. Emden appears in the painting’s right lower corner.
It came to us from Germany in its original frame but, unfortunately, it arrived in very poor shape and fell apart. In fact, if we tried to ship it to its new owner with the painting in place, the painting would have suffered further damage. As it is, some sections to its left side show either a hole or the paint has worn away to reveal the parchment. To prevent further damage we will ship the painting rolled and carefully packed in a sturdy shipping tube.
This is a wonderful artifact of a famous German warship that had a distinguished career both before and during WW I.