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Page Three
Who painted this picture ?

Detail. Unsigned. Attributed to Peter Monamy. NMM (BHC3422)

34 x 40. Unsigned. NMM

34 x 39½. Signature WVV "possibly false".

If built in 1683, obviously not painted in 1666


Of this painting, shown in full at left, the National Maritime Museum has this to say: "Calm: an English ketch rigged yacht, thought to be the Isabella, with other ships and vessels near the shore. .... The Isabella was a ketch rigged yacht built at Greenwich in 1683 by Phineas Pett and was the last he built. ..... This painting is believed to be by Peter Monamy and is either a copy of an original van de Velde the Younger which was lost from the Kaiser-Friedrich Museum in Berlin at the end of WWII, or another version of the Berlin painting."

Below it is a reproduction, remarkably in colour, given its date of 1927, of the Berlin painting, which comes from Die Künstlerfamilie van de Velde by K. Zoege von Manteuffel. This book, although full of historical inaccuracies and genealogical confusion, is nevertheless of interest. As a matter of fact, everything is of interest, to anyone who finds things to be of interest. Michael Robinson, on the basis solely of various photographs, is supremely confident in his assessment, and he asserts that this version was painted "substantially by the Younger, perhaps in 1684". See Robinson, Vol.2, p 670.

Robinson also states that the version in the NMM was "painted perhaps by the Younger's studio, with little or no work on it by the master, c.1700". In connection with the "belief" that the NMM picture was painted by Monamy, Robinson has a few comments about Monamy's work "in the tradition of the Elder's studio, the tradition continued by Isaac Sailmaker". In fact, of course, Monamy painted in the tradition of William Clark, to whom he was apprenticed for a seven year period. Nevertheless, Robinson recommends reading the foreword to the Pallant House exhibition catalogue, 1983, which can be seen here. Sailmaker did not, of course, in any way "continue in the tradition of the Elder's studio": he had arrived in England 20 years earlier.

Our National Maritime Museum continues to parrot this mantra: "Peter Monamy was one of the first English artists to continue the tradition of Willem van de Velde the Younger's marine painting into the 18th century and his work is representative of the early British school of maritime art, which still shows the overwhelming influence of the Dutch style. Monamy was self-taught, but may have worked in van de Velde's studio in Greenwich."

What a comical phrase that "self-taught" is! Others have remarked that a man who is self-taught cannot learn anything from his teacher. The van de Veldes were ousted from Greenwich in about 1691, when Monamy was 10 years old. I don't think he did much work there. Those paintings truly representative of Monamy's work are singularly uninfluenced by the van de Veldes. See here: sea trade and sea power.

Let us now centre our interest on the "small boat furling sail", shown left. "A useful piece of staffage" noted Richard Kingzett in his Catalogue of the Works of Samuel Scott, in The Walpole Society, 1980-82. The piece of staffage re-surfaces in three different paintings, below.

Since two of these pictures are signed, and dated, by Scott, what is the likelihood of the third being by Monamy?

Scott's painting dated 1726, left, was auctioned in London on 16 July 1998.
For paintings signed and dated S.Scott 1726 and 1728, left and right: see Kingzett, The Walpole Society, 1980-1982.
"The fishing boat furling sail [1728] is an exact repetition of the one [1726] in reverse". P.17
click for hamper
Detail of painting signed and dated S.Scott, 1726.Detail of painting "believed to be by Peter Monamy".
37 x 44½. Painting signed and dated S.Scott, 1726.34 x 40. Painting "believed to be by Peter Monamy".

37¼ x 69¼. Signed and dated S.Scott, 1728. Exhibited at Agnew's, May 29-July 4, 1975. See note below.

So what conclusions may be drawn from the situation described above? The fishermen furling sail in their boat definitely formed a popular piece of staffage. There is no evidence at all it was used by Monamy, however. It seems certainly to have been used by Scott, perhaps by Cornelius v d Velde, and, who knows? possibly even by T.Leemans.

It, and the whole composition, was also not unknown to Elisha Kirkall.

6½ x 7½. BM AN1018792001
Kirkall mezzotint.

Sometimes the yacht thought to be the Isabella Yacht has instead been thought to be the Fubbs Yacht. In Berlin, her picture was thought to be called The Salute Shot.

Below is a painting believed in Chicago to be by Gawen Hamilton.

Copied from the Monamy & Walker conversation piece: c 1740 ? Perhaps.
This painting is quite certainly not by Gawen Hamilton, who died in 1737.
Nor is the easel painting by Monamy. Swaine ? Possibly.

From Marine Painters of the Netherlands, by Colonel Rupert Preston, 1974

"Even genuine signatures are not proof of authorship … We are warned by Cotman, who wrote of the drawings from his family manufactory, 'little do they ken by whom they are done, when given under my name'."
M.S.Robinson, 1910-1999.

"The truth ... is that to the dilettante the thing is the end, while to the professional as such it is the means; and only he who is directly interested in a thing, and occupies himself with it from love of it, will pursue it with entire seriousness.
It is from such as these, and not from wage-earners, that the greatest things have always come."
Arthur Schopenhauer, 1851

"Truth is born into this world only with pangs and tribulations, and every fresh truth is received unwillingly. To expect the world to receive a new truth, or even an old truth, without challenging it, is to seek one of those miracles which do not occur."
Alfred Russel Wallace

nil desperandum       desperate, but not hopeless       sperandum est

"There are some curious men who form an idea of a master, by the sight of three or four of his pictures; and who, after this, believe they have a sufficient authority to decide what his manner is."
Roger de Piles, 1635 - 1709

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