Souvenir painting of the British battleship HMS Roxburgh in a lifesaver-form frame decorated with hand-painted illustrations of the Union Jack on the right, a British Royal Navy flag on the left and the ship's name in gold block lettering, with a blue drop shadow. The lifesaver is further decorated with four gold painted canvas strips. It is surrounded by a ring of red and white striped rope attached through four eye hooks -- vintage, but probably not original. The painting was made in 1904, the year HMS Roxburgh, an armored cruiser, was launched as part of the 1st Cruiser Squadron in the Channel Fleet.
After a refit at Devonport in 1909, over the next several years HMS Roxburgh served with different Royal Navy divisions. In August 1913 during the run-up to World War I, Roxburgh helped capture a German merchant ship. After another refit in January 1915, the ship was hit by torpedoes from a German U-boat. The damage repaired, in 1916 the ship was sent to Norwegian waters and later that year served on the North America and West Indies Station until the Armistice. While escorting a convoy off the coast of Northern Ireland, it rammed and sank German U-boat U89. In 1919, HMS Roxburgh went into reserve and was eventually sold in 1921.
Sailors have traditionally adopted crafts such as carving, rope work, whale bone scrimshaw and sailors' shell valentines to pass the time on board ship or as a hobby after retirement. Sailor arts were often made as gifts for their wives or sweethearts back home, and also were sold or bartered by the sailors aboard ship or at port. Lifesaver-form frames were often made as souvenirs, framing photographs or paintings of the ship or its crew. It is possible that this lifesaver was made by a sailor or officer connected with the Roxburgh, but the quality of the painting suggests it was made by an artist for sale to naval personnel. The format and painting on the lifesaver are nonetheless typical of commemorative sailor folk art.
Condition: Generally very good with the usual overall light toning and handling.
"Devonshire Class." World Naval Ships. 2001-2011. http://www.worldnavalships.com/devonshire_class.htm (26 April 2012).