A SHIP IN DISTRESS
Monamy pinxt Canot sculp
Publish'd according to Act of Parliament in Febry 1745-6

Design'd to represent the loss of the Victory by a violent Storm near the Race of Alderney in the Year 1744. Sr John Balchen the Admiral & upwards of 1000 Men were on board & unhappily perish'd in the Waves.

Printed for John Bowles at the Black Horse in Cornhill

Another note says the loss occurred near the Casquets. Monamy's original painting (perhaps the one now in the NMM collection) was based on an Admiralty model, begun in 1737 and completed after the tragedy. A broadsheet ballad was sung throughout the country in mourning of this tragic event. Those lost included 100 midshipmen, aged 13 and upwards.

This ship is now known as Balchen's Victory.


Loss of the Victory 4 October 1744
hand-coloured print [detail]


30 x 24     national maritime museum
see more phlegmatic performances

SHIP MODELS 1

The General Advertiser of July 26th, 1750, announced: "By virtue of a distress, tomorrow, the 27th inst. the household furniture, pictures and china of Mr. Peter Monamy, sea painter, deceased at his late dwelling house, next to King Henry's Chapel in Old Palace Yard.     Likewise his collection of prints and drawings, amongst which are many of William Vandervelde, Senior and Junior.     The whole collection will be exhibited to view this day to the time of sale. which will begin at 11 o'clock precisely.   The whole to be sold in one day.
N.B. ---- The prints, drawings and models, will begin selling at six in the evening."

Like his models, the van de Veldes, Monamy, their phlegmatic follower, also used models. Few marine painters didn't.

The van de Veldes' use of models is commented on by Michael Robinson and Brian Lavery. To quote Ship Models, by Lavery and Stephens: "The van de Veldes worked mainly from detailed drawings of ships in port, but these usually show ships without rigging. Since this was standard on all large and medium-sized ships, a model could be used to put it into the finished painting. According to a book published in 1706, van de Velde the Elder 'for his better information in this way of painting had a model of the mast and tackle of a ship always before him, to that nicety and exactness that nothing was wanting in it, nor nothing unproportionable.'" p.42.

Admiralty model of Balchen's Victory.

Below is a complicated artefact: a much-manipulated scan of a book reproduction of a photograph of a model of a short-lived actual ship mounted beside a scan of a reproduced photograph of a line print after an oil painting of the same model imagined to represent the final moments of the life of the ship and her crew of 1,100 men and boys.

The viewpoint of the photograph of the model is very slightly different from that of the print, but one nevertheless feels that the correspondence of the stern details could have been closer. Below, the oil painting in the NMM, which need not necessarily be the original from which Canot engraved his print, is compared with the rather garishly hand-coloured detail from above. Canot appears to have increased the ship's incline, and splayed the foremast forward, presumably to emphasize the descent to Davy Jones. The assumption must be that Monamy worked directly from the model, although he has given the ship's stern a more rounded appearance.

"Extravagant claims should not be made for the ship model. It is not a work of 'fine' art such as a painting or sculpture. No ship model can approach the depth of emotion aroused by a great painting or the movement and vivacity in a great sculpture. ... the maker of a ship model is ultimately bound by the form of the original." An interesting opinion by Lavery and Stephens, p.46. Why is craft not art?

The phrase "bound by the form of the original" suggests that the closer an imitation approaches the object imitated, the less it contains of Art. Is distortion therefore implicit in all Art? Sir Joshua Reynolds made extensive observations on Art, some of which, he suggested, "may lead to an enquiry, Why we are not always pleased with the most absolute possible resemblance of an imitation to its original object. Cases may exist in which such a resemblance may even be disagreeable ..... the effect of figures in Wax-work, though certainly a more exact representation than can be given by Painting or Sculpture, is a sufficient proof that the pleasure we receive from imitation is not increased merely in proportion as it approaches to minute and detailed reality; we are pleased, on the contrary, by seeing ends accomplished by seemingly inadequate means." Discourses on Art, XI, 75. Art today, of course, has progressed from the pursuit of the agreeable to the pursuit of the disagreeable. Ship models are not disagreeable.

models two
timeline: 1727-1749
     


models two
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© Charles Harrison Wallace 2003
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