For maritime-art collectors, the Lannan Ship Model Gallery in Boston’s historic wharf area is something of a treasure trove. Founded in 1967 by Joseph G Lannan Jr, a merchant marine, and now run by his son Larry, this Aladdin’s cave of nautical antiques and memorabilia draws a discerning clientele that includes designers and collectors such as Ralph Lauren and William Koch, as well as the curators of the National Maritime Museum of China and the Mystic Seaport, who rely on it to stock their permanent collections.
Larry began working in the family business when he was 11 and developed a passion for “great attic finds” that he and his father sourced from dealers and fairs around the world. In the intervening 47 years, he has overseen the shop’s transition from a small loft in the South End to its current soaring, mahogany-clad space.
The store now offers everything from antique paintings and lithographs to navigational instruments, furnishings and even fantastical sea chests, but it is the huge array of model ships that have made it a unique destination spot. “Our vast range of boats – nearly 400 at present – is the largest selection in the world,” explains Lannan. “Being in New England, we are in the sweet spot of the finest nautical art available.” As well as local finds, many of his rare models are procured from dealers in Amsterdam and the UK, before being sent to a workshop in the British Midlands where hulls are restored and fittings are meticulously plated in silver and gold.
From a model of a 19th-century English Channel cutter ($18,500, second picture) to an exquisitely executed version of the German ocean liner Imperator ($110,000), Lannan’s offerings are mainly one-of-a-kind; most were produced as single architectural models for boat builders. Edwardian pond yachts (from $3,500) – many of which sailed in Hyde Park in the late 1800s – as well as vintage American versions measuring two to 10ft in length (from $1,000), are popular, and enthusiasts also commission the store to create custom pieces (price on request) of their own skiffs and superyachts. These are crafted at the same atelier that refurbishes the antique models. “The bespoke versions are increasingly popular with Russian collectors and are made from materials such as pear wood, milled brass and fine, tightly woven linen, to mimic a ship’s original sails,” says Lannan.
Enormous charts of the world’s oceans are another speciality, and a 6ft Imray chart of the English Channel ($3,695) is prominently on display in the store. Telegraphs in various languages (from $2,250), gleaming port and starboard lanterns with original burners (from $2,900), ebony- and ivory-handled captain’s sextants (from $3,495, third picture) and a stunning array of telescopes – including a rare Dollond London brass model with a crank pedestal ($18,500) – round out the expertly curated cache.
“My search for great maritime art is endless,” says Lannan. “I’m thrilled to see collectors coming back to these antiques – they represent eras of real elegance.”