"In the 18th c. the best marine painting followed the shift of sea-power from the Dutch to the English. There was Peter MONAMY, who so often copied van de Velde's compositions slavishly, and Samuel SCOTT, who was more of an outdoor artist and in his historical works approached van de Velde in accuracy and skill in composition."

Pure drivel from The Oxford Companion to Art, 1970, edited by Harold Osborne, p.693, 1989 edition.


The right-hand painting is entitled The Kingfisher Action with Seven Algerine Ships
copied on relining at back: W.V.Velde, de oude/f 1683. See MSR Vol I, p.210
49½ x 72; Buckingham Palace; signed W.v.Velde lower right

The Slavish Imitator

It becomes a matter of importance to tackle the topic of Monamy's slavish imitations, especially since "the styles of Scott and Peter Monamy, and ultimately of all the English marine artists of the eighteenth century, were formed entirely on that of the Van de Veldes", and since Monamy, in particular, was such "a fluent follower of the van de Veldes". The subject is rather irritating and distracting, but it keeps the professional art-historians very happily engaged, and, although there are more significant things to notice in Monamy's work, it has to be addressed.

The Algerine Pirates


"A plentiful use of smoke happily conceals the details of hull and rigging which the
artist was too lazy to depict." E.K.Chatter on, Chatter on Naval Prints, 1926.

Above is the line print engraved by Fourdrinier after the Vauxhall Gardens painting by Peter Monamy, now presumed lost. The nature of its display in the gardens, and reason for its presence, meant that the legendary repute of English prowess in naval combat was to be revived and highlighted. Since, in my guesstimate, this painting would have been on view perhaps as early as 1736 or 1738, when England was still impatiently at peace with Spain, the painting avoids specifically indicating the real anticipated enemy.

There had been numerous engagements with Algerine pirates; two of them in 1669 and 1681, the first involving Captain John Kempthorne, the second his son, Captain Morgan Kempthorne. This particular painting, destined for public display at Vauxhall, appears to me to be an amalgam of these and other encounters. It is a composite smokescreen, pace EKC, designed to stiffen English sinews for the struggle ahead. The Gentleman's Magazine was recalling the long-gone battles of English sea-dogs from the past two centuries, Cavendish, Drake and Blake, "men void of slavish fears" in Marvell's phrase. The availability of some old battle-pieces by van de Velde led Monamy to hit on the idea of presenting a mélange of these exploits, remembered with advantages, for display in Vauxhall Gardens.


Wm.Vanderveld Pinx.     Fight against seven Algerines by Capt. Kempthorne.     E:Kirkall Fecit

Above is the green mezzotint produced by Elisha Kirkall. The date is not definitely known, and it may have been as late as 1735 or 1736, although the name of the painting's owner, Thomas Brodrick, makes it fairly certain that it was produced in the middle to late 1720s. Thomas Brodrick died in 1728. Correction: 1730. However, it rather looks as though the print inscription: Fight against seven Algerines by Capt. Kempthorne was added as an afterthought, at some date later than the original impression.

On the basis of Robinson's entry in his Vol I, p.235, it is reasonably certain that a painting, titled Action between an English Ship and Barbary Ships is the original for Kirkall's mezzotint. Monamy's poor painting, dated 1734, at present in the NMM storage vaults, appears to be loosely based on Kirkall's mezzotint, and is not at all closely related to his Vauxhall Gardens painting. The mezzotint, and the 1734 (or 1736) painting are compared below.

Both these images are directly comparable with the painting in Robinson, mentioned above. He records eight versions of this picture, two signed Monamy, and one possibly attributable to Cleveley the Elder. The salient feature of Monamy's NMM version is that it is in reverse of the van de Velde painting, thus suggesting it was developed directly from Kirkall's mezzotint. Here is the van de Velde, compared with the mezzotint, which is in the reversed sense.

Monamy's signed NMM painting also appears to incorporate some slight elements from another painting attributed to van de Velde, however. This is titled by Robinson An Action between an English Ship and Barbary Ships and Galleys, Vol I, p.227, and it is juxtaposed as C, with Kirkall's mezzotint B, and Monamy's picture A, below.       

Robinson does not evince great enthusiasm for it, but he notes that it was mentioned in an inventory dated 1683. It cannot be by Monamy, therefore, so any faults it has are not to be blamed on the slavish second-rater. [October 2006: In an earlier version of this web page I mistakenly stated this painting was the one described by Robinson on page 226: my apologies to anyone who was misled --- which is highly unlikely.]

The circled details in C, and in A and B, are only really related in terms of their positions in the compositions of the pictures. The lazy painter, however, appears to have transferred the dark smoke enveloping the top right-hand corner of C to the same position in his painting A, and balanced it against much thicker, darker smoke billowing from the blazing vessel picked out by the circle on the left. After some loving restoration, and viewed with an eye less jaundiced by van de Velde, it might turn out not such a rotten painting after all.

Monamy subsequently seems to have embarked on a major re-shuffle of the compositional elements of painting C, which measures 12¾ x 33. Perhaps the second-rate practitioner was desperately trying to shake off the shackles of his compositional slavery. I believe that he deliberately exploited the Ham House painting as his inspiration for the composition which was displayed in Vauxhall Gardens --- I suggest by about 1738. The engraving after this lost painting is shown again, below the Ham House picture, and the re-arrangements indicated.


Another stab at this analysis is attempted here.

As acknowledged here, I am entirely indebted to Jane Byrne for pointing me in the direction of these van de Velde antecedents, and supplying the page numbers in Robinson's catalogue. It may be that what is put forward on this page has already been treated with greater depth and accuracy in a document I have not yet seen. If so, should I come to read it, I will readily recognise and credit whatever points of agreement or difference there may be.


peter monamy, at the mercy of the algerine scholars and connoisseurs


"Slavery is so vile and miserable an estate of man, and so directly opposite to the generous temper and courage of our nation, that it is hardly to be conceived that an "Englishman," much less a "gentleman", should plead for it." The opening sentence of Locke's first Treatise of Civil Government has a hollow ring to anyone familiar with the history of slavery, though this hollowness is not to be imputed to its author.

"I have reason to conclude that he who would get me into his power without my consent would use me as he pleased when he had got me there, and destroy me too when he had a fancy to it; for nobody can desire to have me in his absolute power unless it be to compel me by force to that which is against the right of my freedom ---- i.e. to make me a slave."

John Locke was deprived of his appointment at Christ Church, Oxford, in 1684, "through the malice of Charles II" according to W.S.Carpenter. Of course, there are various degrees and types of slavery. The Works of John Locke were published in three volumes in 1714, 1722 and 1727. It will not be as obvious to some as it is to me that Monamy was a man who concerned himself with matters of this nature.

Tell em the Generous scorn their Rise to owe
To Flattery, Pimping, and a gawdy shew:
Tell 'em to scorn the Carwells, Pembrookes, Nells,
The Cleavelands, Osbornes, Barties, Lauderdales...
Make 'em admire the Sidnies, Talbots, Veres,
Blake, Candish, Drake, men void of slavish fears,
True sons of Glory, Pillars of the state,
On whose fam'd Deeds all tongues, all writers wait.

From Britannia and Rawleigh, published in
Thomas Cooke's edition of Marvell's works, 1726.

But Britannia and Rawleigh is almost certainly by John Ayloffe, 1645-1685.


Carwell is Louise de Quéroualle, 1649-1734, the unpopular Duchess of Portsmouth. Nell is Nell Gwynne, 1650-1687, the popular protestant whore. No kin to William of Orange. Gawdy shew alludes to Sir Walter Raleigh's Instructions to his Sonne: and to Posteritie: "No man is esteemed for gay Garments, but by Fools and Women". Margoliouth, 1971, p.406.


acknowledgement to sellar and yeatman and john reynolds, gent

The Royal Refugee our Breed restores,
With Foreign Courtiers, and with Foreign Whores:
And carefully repeopled us again,
Throughout his Lazy, Long, Lascivious Reign
-------
Six Bastard Dukes survive his Luscious Reign,
The Labours of Italian Castlemain,
French Portsmouth, Tabby Scot, and Cambrian
-------

Daniel Defoe: The True-Born Englishman, 1701.

art & imitation
algerine pirates: vauxhall gardens
andrew marvell
monamy website index

top


     

     
     

© Charles Harrison-Wallace 2003, 2013
all rights reserved