24 x 50. Signed P.Monamy Pinx. ll. Christie 8 July 2015 Lot 121. "A fortified Continental harbour."


PICTURES with FOLIAGE
A closer look at leafy-minded marine paintings


38 x 39. "Indistinctly signed [Monamy]". See Cockett, p 61. Agnew's

50 x 40. Circle of van Diest. Christie's, 23 April 2008

The painting at left, as I've already said, struck me as a highly unusual, not to say suspiciously improbable, Monamy the first time I saw its splendid photographic reproduction. Having spent some years or so ruminating on the enigmatic Thomas Leemans, I wouldn't mind donating this picture to him. But he is enigmatic. I wonder why he only signed one of his paintings; apart from which he seems to have had no recorded existence. See here.

This painting, and the one heading this page, seem to me certainly by the same hand. The question is, can it possibly be the hand, or studio, or circle, of Monamy ? I can't help doubting it.


A. Vandiest Pinx / E. Kirkall Fecit.
BM AN530494001

Kirkall is not the most reliable witness, but he's no worse than a signature. A major problem is that van Diest died in 1704. The ships in the oil paintings are all wearing post-1707 ensigns.

Adriaen van Diest, 1655-1704. "His better pictures have changed their name." Wikipedia.
From Bryan's Dictionary of Painters and Engravers.


Signed and dated 1730. Measurements unrecorded, but estimated at 16 x 30. Duke of Norfolk.

A painting which is as authentic a Monamy as can be found. It has been in the ownership of the Dukes of Norfolk since 1730. From 1730 to 1731 the 8th Duke of Norfolk, 1683 - 1732, was Grand Master of the Premier Grand Lodge of England. This was an eye-opening role for an aristocrat heading the Roman Catholic church in Great Britain. I am reminded of the artist who remarked that Monamy's paintings are about more than just the ships. This painting seems to me mysterious, as though it were saying something secretive.

The auction catalogue notes accompanying pictures ascribed to Monamy used to say that he was prolific, but had never been famous. More recently, Monamy's lack of fame has been revised, as it no longer seems that he wasn't famous. I wrote that he was famous in 1981, and this has been firmly endorsed by Robert Cottrell's 2015 discovery of Monamy's newspaper obituary notice, in The London Gazetteer, 9th February 1749. Instead of not having been famous, it is now asserted that "he was never particularly prosperous" An oddly gratuitous remark.

The truth is that from about 1725 until two or three years before his death, when he grew decayed and infirm, Monamy was clearly sufficiently prosperous. After about 1732, when the Walpoles began to patronise Samuel Scott, Monamy may have begun to feel the pinch, to an extent. Sadly this catalogue note-writer makes other mistakes. He or she mis-spells the notable Durell family of the Channel Isles, as Durrel. See an excellent article by Ellen G. Miles, in The American Art Journal, Winter 1983, entitled Portraits of the Heroes of Louisbourg, 1745-1751. Also mentioned are the Sausmarezs (Curious plural !). The cataloguer continues to insist on the heavy "influence of William van de Velde, the Younger and other North European, Dutch and French masters". These influences have widened, to take in others besides the van de Veldes, but Monamy's originality continues to be minimised. Who, I wonder, influenced the painting below ?

signed monamy oil 18 x 30: private collection

Kirkall mezzotint; after Monamy


Attributed either to Monamy or van Diest. Not by Monamy, in my opinion. But framed by William Kent, 1685-1748.
From The Vyne, a National Trust property in Hampshire.

To me, this staffage does not seem Monamyesque.

more anomalies
see also here
an english yacht head-reaching
sheerness         portchester?
Monamy: à bout de souffle 1   and   à bout de souffle 12
chronology
monamy website index
title page

© Charles Harrison-Wallace 2015
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