Beginning in the late 19th Century, Germany began building up its presence in China. They “assumed” land at Khiatsou and expanded their foothold in Asia. Ultimately, Germany maintained an entire squadron in China under the command of Vizeadmiral von Spee. When WW I began, he realized that Germany could not hold its base in China. He made arrangements for his squadron to depart and head back to Europe. Sadly for him, after a successful battle off Chile’s coast in November 1914, he met up with the British again in the Battle of Falkland Islands in December 1814. The bulk of his squadron, as well as the Vizeadmiral and his two sons, perished with their respective ships.
German sailors who served in China found remarkable ways to commemorate their service. One very popular way was to produce an embroidered, silk likeness of their ship. Along with that likeness, their ship’s name and their years of service were noted. Usually, a place was provided where a sailor could place his photograph. In most cases you could see that the vessel’s name on his cap tally matched the ship’s name indicated on the silk montage.
The S. M. S. Kaiserin Augusta was commissioned in 1895. She was an all-new ship-type, with all-new engines. She was the first Kaiserliche Marine ship to have three shafts and propellers. She had other problems with her guns, so it was another two years before she was ready for fleet service. From 1897 through 1902 she served in East Asia as a part of its Cruiser Squadron. This time included the 1900-1901 Boxer Rebellion. She was in the middle of all the action taking place. In 1902, she returned to Germany and was placed in reserve status. Ship design had passed her by, and she was no longer considered front-line-capable. She was reactivated in 1914 and placed in the Baltic Seas Fleet under the command of Prussia’s Großadmiral Prinz Heinrich. She first was used for coastal defense, then for artillery training. Finally, she was broken up and scrapped in 1920.
Today we are offering something just a bit different. It is a framed presentation for the S. M. S. Kaiserin Augusta. The central piece shows a silk-embroidered ship’s profile. A multitude of silk thread colors appear in the image, which is so detailed that the kriegsflagge can be clearly seen flying from the ship’s stern. The smaller German National Flag flies from the bow. Directly below the ship we see S. M. S. Kaiserin Augusta handsomely embroidered in silk lettering. Around its image is a red, black, and white thread rope that replicates the German national colors. Below that are multicolored oak leaves and acorns. The image is under glass. The oval-shaped image’s overall measurements are 7 3/4″ x 10.”
As handsome as the image is, it is the frame that really makes it special. The frame is made of lacquered wood that was hand painted in China with images of birds, leaves, and flowers. [It is similar to the wood and lacquer painting on a photo album we are offering in our Colonial Merchandise Page (click here to see)]. The frame measures 12 ½” x 15.” Sadly, some areas of the frame are damaged and show the bare wood underneath the lacquered finish. A simple hanger is on the reverse, which I suggest that you reinforce or replace.
This is a super combination that shows the beauty and artistic attention of China’s artists. I cannot begin to imagine how many hours the artists required to fashion the ship’s likeness. Nor could I begin to count the multitude of stitches made to produce the image. It is simply gorgeous. The same applies to the frame, as well as the patience and dedication that it took to produce it. It is a pity that it sustained some damage, but it remains a gorgeous presentation that highlights Germany’s power in 1898-1914 China.