Monamy and Hogarth (? now Hamilton!) conversation piece c 1732
signed P.Monamy, bottom left.

CALMS: INTRODUCTORY


Typical sale catalogue lots from the 1960s: Sotheby & Co. These paintings were not illustrated.

Calms were, and still are, the most saleable category of marine picture. From the beginning of the 18th century large numbers of these tranquil canvases were turned out by marine painters of all and any competence, and for about the last 200 years any unsigned early 18th century marine painting, or which purported to be early 18th century, and especially if it was a calm, of whatever provenance or quality, was attributed to Monamy as a matter of routine. Signatures have been known to be added to otherwise unidentifiable canvases, and this practice may even have started by the mid-18th century, if the indisputable evidence of changed attributions on prints is taken into account. Pastiche canvases were produced continuously. This aspect is tackled here.

The resulting muddle is not easy to disentangle, and it is particularly misleading that Monamy, since the beginning of the 19th century, has gradually gained a reputation, erroneously in my view, for having "excelled at calms". See pages on this topic, here.

A rock-solid initial guide to style and composition, in the search for authenticity, is provided by the easel painting in the Walker and Monamy conversation piece, shown above, datable to about 1731-1733. The picture on the easel is signed by Monamy, and can be seen as one of his most characteristic commercial calms. The commercial factor, the relationship between artist and "connoisseur", is, in my view, part of the semaphore of this composite work. See here.


a pair, auctioned 1973

The composition of the painting within the painting, featuring one major ship set off by a smaller one, and including a lesser or greater number of other vessels, is almost standard. With the very great number of photographic records accumulated since 1978 I have found it necessary to organize this hodge-podge into subdivisions, and have split them first into two major sections, bow views and stern views of the principal ship in the composition. These two categories may then be further subdivided, with a third less classifiable subdivision to include the remainder. With luck, by arranging the details from the paintings alongside each other, it may be possible in time to pick out those which are recognizably by the same hand. Constant comparison with those of undisputed authenticity may establish acceptable works.

Many of these paintings will not in fact be by Monamy, or even by his pupils, and, for the time being, the purpose of this analysis is to start the process of isolating those features which define an authentic canvas. Several other factors, besides those of pure style, will naturally have to be taken into account as the analysis proceeds. While reluctant to say that any given picture is NOT by Monamy, I would only be ready to guarantee that three out of the ten vessels depicted below are the genuine article. The remaining seven MAY be his, or by painters as "good", or "better". Authenticity is no guarantee of excellence; and in any case, these things should be purely a matter of taste. Why should a signature have any value, or be of any importance when considering a work of art? It's all in the mind.



The colour reproduction of these scanned images is very variable

Most of the pictures are on canvas, in an infinite spectrum of sizes, but there are also occasional pieces on wood panel, and copper. Here are two small calm scenes on copper, both signed.

       
   9¼ x 12, Oil on Copper. Signed. Sale, 26/6/1981                 9 x 12, Oil on Copper. Signed. From F.G.Roe, pl.18
starboard sterns                 port sterns            

Below: oil on panel

signed; 6 x 8


Apollo, Magazine of the Arts: for Connoisseurs and Collectors, October, 1937
"The Salute" by William Van de Velde, the younger
no dimensions or authentication vouchsafed

BEFORE THE CALMS

Calms will be the very last category to be fully investigated on this website.

Alternative C18th Marine Painters
   
see these pages for starters:
stern views are twice as common as bow views

A Calm: Prints, Drawing, Oil

Bow Views         Stern Views         Stern Port         Stern Starboard
Port Flank Views         Port View Curiosities

royal occasions:     starboard quarters     port quarters
royal sovereign types:     one     two     relatively tall/narrow
royal sovereign types:     a. starboard     b. port     broad
royal occasions:     calm waters     fresh winds

thomas [?] leemans     samuel scott
calms, calms, calms
yachts

"Reputed Excellence in Calms"
The Print Evidence
prints & oils

biographical tiles
monamy website index
monamy anomalies
fly away


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© Charles Harrison Wallace 2001, 2003
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