Recently attributed to Samuel Scott at auction; 19 x 28½
Described as HMS Centurion capturing the Spanish treasure ship
Nuestra Seņora de Cavadonga off the Phillippines, 20th June 1743

Samuel Scott: Battles

THREE

The auction catalogue comment for the above picture notes it is "inscribed 'Engagement between the Centurion (Commodore Anson) and the Spanish Galleon Nuestra Seņora de Cabadonza, June 20th 1743' on an old label attached to the stretcher." Kingzett's catalogue raisonné of 1982 records three versions by Scott of the taking of the Nuestra Seņora de Cavadonga, the Acapulco ship. This painting, needless to say, is not one of them, and in fact it appears to derive more nearly from Swaine's print of the same event. One of Scott's three known authentic canvases is shown below.


From A Catalogue of the Works of Samuel Scott, Kingzett 1982, version B, p.28

This version is signed and dated S.Scott 1749. Kingzett notes "The composition is based on one of Brett's eye-witness drawings used to illustrate Walker's Account of the Voyage." The drawing was engraved by J.Mason. Kingzett infers that the version illustrated was a "slightly later variant painted when Scott has had time to realise the pictorial possibilities of the scene. While following Brett's design as a whole, Scott has made the stern of the Centurion more interesting giving her mullions on the stern walk which she never had. ..... Scott also makes the Centurion appear smaller than the Cavadonga perhaps deliberately to stress the David and Goliath aspect of Anson's achievement. In fact, the two ships were virtually the same size."

However, Mason's engraving is shown below; and if this follows Brett's drawing closely it would appear that the David and Goliath aspect had already been stressed before Scott produced his version. Also, the pictorial possibilities of the scene had apparently been realized by either Brett or Mason before Scott took up his brush.


From Anson's Voyage Round the World, by Richard Walter, edited by G.S.Laird Clowes, 1928.


Detail comparison: Mason's engraving, left; Scott's painting, right.

Swaine's print, below, shows the ships as approximately the same size, and embellished stern architecture does not feature.


Capture of the Cavodonga (sic). Print by Parr after Swaine.

The same, with colouring..


The Nottingham takes the Mars; by Scott

Scott's 29 paintings of naval engagements depict a total of 14 actions, the balance taken up by repeat versions of the same action. The period spanned is 1708 to 1759, although Scott's first representation of a naval action, the Capture of Porto Bello, was not produced until 1741. This may not be quite correct, as the scene below has a strong flavour of Scott about it, and is said to represent the Battle of Cape Passaro, 1718. It is not easy to date by style, but was perhaps painted c 1725-1735.


24¾ x 46¼; Sotheby 12 March 1980; unsigned ? The Battle of Passero: S.Scott

The most spectacular canvas may be that of Wager's action off Carthagena, 1708, painted after Wager's death in 1743 with a view to being used as the basis for a monument, completed 1747, in Westminster Abbey. The sculptor, Peter Scheemaker, owned the painting. Monamy was well out of contention by 1747; and in any case he would never have been given this commission. If nautical expertise and artistic merit had had any significance, it should have gone to Charles Brooking, but he didn't have the right address. One reason for the selection of this particular action from 1708 to commemorate Wager was (perhaps) that it provided an opportunity for the Wapole adherents to underline Vernon's catastrophic failure at Carthagena in 1741.


Wager's action off Carthagena: click for more on this painting

The circumstances of the commission explain why Scott devoted such significant care to this picture, showing an action which had taken place 35 years previously. Kingzett's notes are instructive, as they demonstrate how Scott approached his assignment. See also Monamy, here.

Around 1758, and following the capture of Quebec in 1759, Scott produced a series of battle scenes, perhaps as a result of a sales campaign, as suggested by the curious item in the Critical Review, 1758, which also appears to be linked with Smollett's quarrel with Admiral Knowles. But by 1759 Francis Swaine was formidable competition, and Scott produced little marine painting after the early 1760s. Swaine's masterpiece was "The Monmouth captures the Foudroyant", probably painted 1758-1759, an action not attempted by Scott.

There are faint indications, for example in his two Porto Bello paintings, that after 1740 Scott felt a need to demonstrate that he could outdo Monamy in certain types of marine genre painting. He hardly ever attempted storms or breezes, since he had no feeling for wind and weather, but in the calm scene, left, he seems to be echoing a canvas by Monamy.

Scott's painting, now in the NMM, naturally reflects the probable gap of twenty or more years between the two pictures. Monamy's composition looks as if it may have been a decorative overdoor or mirror insert.


40 x 54; Christie's, 16 April 1993; unsigned; S.Scott
See here. Looks like a preparatory painting for a more finished picture: below.

See also here for discussion of date and source map for right-hand painting.

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