Arts Illustrated

April 15, 2021

Of Riches to Perishes

As the world debates whether Jack would’ve fit on the door with Rose, let me narrate to you the richest love story on the Titanic which claimed – ‘God Himself Could Not Sink This Ship’

Maheen Afshan

The night of 1912; the biggest voyage on water which took off with bustling, steaming engines, screeching whistles, the scent of fresh-coated paint and heaps of dreams met with a dramatic accident causing a traumatic experience for the souls who narrowly escaped death unlike their fellow passengers.

As per reports, 2,240 passengers boarded the mighty Titanic along with the bustling crew members and as the clock struck midnight on 14 April, 1912, the ship clashed with a wayward iceberg, insisting the ocean swallow tons of steel plates and over 1,500 passengers alive.


The tragedy like no other left the world gape mouthed and teary-eyed. Some mourned the loss of their loved ones; a few faint-hearts mourned the collision; those who watched James Cameron’s film adaption of Titanic starring Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio mourned the death of Jack who saved the love of his life, Rose and the art community mourned the destruction of masterpieces which became one with the icy waters.

I sought out to find more about the sunken artworks of the Titanic internet and unsurprisingly sunk into the tales of the ship, what remains now a rusted chunk of metal at the bottom of the North Atlantic. And as much as I believed, watching the movie, that art of the pioneers such as Monet and Picasso were displayed on the polished walls of the ship, sadly there wasn’t.

“La Circassienne au bain” Steel engraving by Cavernier after Merry Joseph Blondel (1781–1853). Image courtesy: akg-images

But there was indeed one oil painting by Merry-Joseph Blondel, which sources claim add up to $2 million in current times and is the costliest painting on the ship. The painting, La Circassienne au Bain, itself which was painted a century ago dating from 1912, represents a young woman in her nude, entering her bath which was fashioned with fountains and marbles, in proper French style architecture.

It is said that La Circassienne au Bain received poor reviews when it was unveiled in Paris but later caught the eye of the public as years went by. While the artist was awarded honours for the painting later on, the painting had seemingly disappeared from public eye. Almost a century went by, and it was as if the painting was waiting for its match, it was seen brought aboard by a Swedish businessman, Björnström-Steffanson who was fortunate enough to escape the sinking marvel.


Sinking of the Titanic
Sinking of the Titanic

As I read the details I watched the world gasp at its price tag, but I for one find it astonishingly romantic. The tale of a long lost antique appeared in the hands of a man, to sail in a ship worthy of its eloquence and as if it was its last wish on Earth, rested, fulfilling an eternal promise.

While there have been claims that the artworks were coated with wax and could still be waiting for us at the bottom of the ocean, it is highly unlikely that the La Circassienne au Bain survived, signing off the century’s worthy tale a melancholic segment.


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