à bout de souffle
WHO WAS THE FIRST PAINTER TO PROCLAIM
THE BIRTH OF BRITAIN'S GLOBAL NAVAL SUPREMACY?
It wasn't van de Velde, and it wasn't Samuel Scott.
Could it perhaps have been Isaac Sailmaker?
At left is the cover of an extremely interesting book by Richard Harding, which sheds light on what, in the words of its blurb, is the "misunderstood war" of 1739-1748, in which "lie some of the key factors that made Britain the greatest naval power for the next one hundred and fifty years."
The purpose of this page, however, is not to praise Harding's exposition of what ought to have been recognized many long decades ago, but to complain about the picture used on the jacket of his book.
It is not so much the picture itself which is objectionable, as in various ways it does express something of Britains' burgeoning ascendancy --- which did not finally hit home until the Year of Victories, 1759; it is, rather, the name and date attached to the composition which invite pause. This picture, in my view, was not painted until about 1764, although dated here to 1740.
See here; and/or here.
The depiction of the Capture of Porto Bello on Harding's dust-jacket has been attributed to the hands of two painters, one of whom was quite probably Samuel Scott. The circular stern of the Burford, and the rather cardboard cut of the sails of the randomly distributed fleet of six, proclaim the hand of the English Vanderveldt. In 1982 Richard Kingzett noted that "Scott seems to have painted the ships only .... super-imposing them on a bird's-eye view of the location by another hand." Who would disagree? The ships sit on, not in, the sea.
Currently, September 2013, the NMM ignores Kingzett's well-considered opinion, the result of 30 years spent contemplating the works of Scott, and notes as follows: "Scott's representation of the event, with its distorted perspective, draws on the tradition of bird's-eye-view, 17th century topographical landscape painting." Up to a point, Lord Copper. Let us be categorical: this painting, with its bird's-eye topography, is totally unlike anything else painted by Scott. It is virtually certainly based on Bellin's map, of 1764, or a year or two earlier, and is a performance created in tacit recognition of Britain's rule over the waves. The wonderful year of 1759 inspired David Garrick to write Hearts of Oak, and even the Walpole poodle was caught up by the national elation.
The idea that it was painted in 1740 because it depicts an event which first became known to the British public in 1740 is, of course, utterly without foundation. I well recall a splendid exhibition of oil paintings by Robert Taylor of Hurricanes and Spitfires, battling it out in one of the last struggles to maintain Britain's honour. This exhibition, mounted in London by Einstein International, took place in 1983, forty years after most of the events depicted. This painting of Vernon's capture in 1739 appears to me to have been painted a mere 25 years later. The NMM notes that a "later" inscription, lower right, reads: "Porto Bello taken by Admiral Vernon in 1740 --- for which he received the Thanks of both Houses of Parliament." This inscription is recognized as obviously "later" than the event; why should it be "later" than the painting ? An oil painting is not a newspaper photograph.
At left is one of Bellin's maps, as published in 1764. Its relationship to the NMM painting is gone into here, as already noted above.
The bird's-eye painting seems to be an amalgam of two of Bellin's 1764 maps, with Scott's shipping superimposed, as Kingzett surmised. Another unsigned painting which appears to be a preparatory draft for this composition was sold at auction in 1993: see here, or below. Certain, to my mind, that this was not painted by Scott in 1740.
Agree that the picture was in "the tradition" of earlier English topographical works, often by Sailmaker. The painting of Barbados, below, appears, to my amateurish eye, more skilled, however, than most of Sailmaker's panoramas. It would be nice to know why, precisely, it is ascribed to him, and why dated "c 1694". Possible, I suppose, but one would like to see some rationale for these assertions.
44½ x 91. Unsigned, undated, c 1694, Attributed to Isaac Sailmaker. Yale.
The Yale website notes that Sailmaker, ca. 1633-1721, Dutch, was active in Britain (from the 1640s). In 1640 Sailmaker was 7 years old.
Item No 35 in Rule Britannia! An unusually fine Loan Exhibition of Marine Works of Art, mounted by Sotheby, 2-29 January 1986, in aid of the RNLI.
There are a number of landward depictions, prints and oil paintings, of Fort St.George, Madras, of varying quality, onwards from the early 1700s. The probability of this example being by Lambert and Scott is virtually nil. The nautical knowledge, observation and precision with which the scene has been portrayed much exceed the interests and abilities of either Scott or Lambert. It reminds me, to some extent, of Monamy's painting of Castle Cornet.
This perceived similarity, real or imagined, to the Castle Cornet panorama, inset right, led me at first to attribute the Madras painting to Monamy. Looking at it more attentively I've now come to think of it as more probably by Brooking, leading me further to suspect the Guernsey vista also to be by Brooking, when working for Monamy at an earlier date, perhaps about 1743. The Madras picture could then have followed within another couple or four years; say by 1747. The dimensions of the flags are otherwise much in the Sailmaker vein.
27 x 85. Constantinople by Peter Monamy
What links these images of faraway places? Could there be some connection with the consequences of the Alhambra decree in 1492 ? One of these consequences, of course, within a few short years, was the Easter Slaughter, 1506, in Lisbon.
Remarkably, despite the slaughter, Portugal came to be known as England's oldest ally and trading partner, at least until the C20th. Many Portuguese nevertheless left the country after 1506, departing for Amsterdam, the Antilles, and Constantinople, Turkey; as well as many other places. Barbados happens to be one of the Lesser Antilles.
51˝ x 70. Lisbon by Peter Monamy
Before they left the Iberian peninsula, the emigrants had been called Marranos, and/or Conversos. Much has been written on the history and travels of these people, but it is rare to find any mention of the Channel Islands in connection with them. Nevertheless, I have come strongly to suspect that one of their number, some time before about 1515, and after 1506, came to Jersey, perhaps via Rouen, under the name of Monamy. His first name is unknown, but Étienne could well have been the name of a son. Étienne Monamy, born in Jersey circa 1516, had three and possibly more children. One son, Clement, married Marie Ahier and had at least two boys, Moyse and Aaron. Étienne's other known son, André, moved to Guernsey, where he was later joined by his nephew Aaron.
Records indicate this André Monamy, c 1540-1591, had three wives, fathering three children by the first, named Jacob, Jehan and Elizabeth; and six by the third, named Judith, Marie, Judith, Elizabeth, André and Elie. Two of the girls named Elizabeth and Judith evidently died in infancy. Nearly all the children appear to have died relatively young. Only four of these nine children: Marie, born 1580, Elizabeth, 1584, André, 1587, and Elie, 1589, are mentioned in their father's will in 1591. The male line continued through Elie, two years old when his father died.
Wilfred's son, Edgar, has much nutritious matter, of compelling fascination, to add on these wide-ranging topics. Edgar Samuel's book is titled At the End of the Earth, 2004. For the purposes of his overall thesis, Edgar considers the end of the earth to be, first, Portugal; and second, England. Earlier the earth's end might have been considered Ultima Thule; and later, the U.S. of A. His first chapter concerns the naming of children. The literature on the Marranos and Conversos is vast. It can only be gingerly dipped into, on any subsequent pages.
to be continued: with a focus on fort george
here's a follow-up: but it's not à bout de souffle, in this instance
more of another pause for thought
monamy website index
© Charles Harrison-Wallace 2013
all rights reserved
Samuel Scott became inspired by the Year of Victories, 1759. Just a suggestion.