1705 and 1710. The date of the Watermen's Hall painting is open to dispute.


Decorator and Signpainter

There is no reason to doubt Vertue's account of Monamy's transformation to easel painter from "ordinary painting", bearing in mind that, to Vertue, "ordinary painting" was something totally different from two coats of emulsion. The painter's initial access to other marines would have been limited to those available in his immediate surroundings, while living on London Bridge. Vertue says that Monamy "took to the study & inclination of painting of ships --- or sea pieces from the Variety of those Views he had continually before his eyes where he liv'd when prentice". Nothing was more obvious a view before his eyes than the Doggett's Race champion. There is not the faintest suggestion that Monamy had any training from van de Velde. Vertue adds that "by constant practice he distinguisht himself and came into reputation", which suggests that by dint of application, not academic schooling, Monamy progressed to distinction.

"where he liv'd when prentice"

Old London Bridge; with portraits of some of its inhabitants: "On this bridge resided certain worthies ..... First, Holbein, who, under the auspices of Henry VIII, may be said to have given birth to the art of painting in this country ..... the kind Duke of Leeds (said) ' My family deduces its origin from Jack Osborn, the shop-boy of a pin-maker on London Bridge, in the reign of one of the Henries.' ..... Master John Bunyan, one of your heaven-born geniuses, some time resided on London Bridge .....

Master Abel, the great importer of wines ..... set up a sign, 'Thank God, I am Abel', quoth the wag, and had, in front of his house, the sign of a bell .....

Monamy, the marine painter, some of whose pictures were scarcely inferior to Vandevelde's, served his apprenticeship on London Bridge, and exhibited his works in the window of his shop, to the delight of the sons of Neptune, men and boys, who were seen in crowds gazing at his wondrous art.

Dominic Serres, another painter, distinguished for his talent in the same department, also resided on this memorable bridge. These have left a name."     From Chapter VII, Vol II, Wine and Walnuts, 1823, by Ephraim Hardcastle (aka William H.Pyne, 1769-1843).

Pyne was an illustrator himself. Born 20 years after Monamy's death, he could certainly have known men who remembered Monamy personally, and his remarks are credible. The comparison with van de Velde derives from the mezzotint slogan.

Pyne is quoted by Gordon Home in Old London Bridge, 1931. Home adds that another "artist who at one time had his home on the Bridge was John Laguerre, the son of Louis Laguerre. He was born in London and lived on the first floor of a house on the east side of the Bridge close to the Southwark Cathedral. .... Laguerre's studio is described as being in a bow-windowed room projecting over the water, which trembled when the flow of the river came with its full force through the arches. It was stated by (Pyne) that Hogarth had in his young days lived in this house ..." Pyne's actual words, Vol II, p.135, are "Here Hogarth, in early life, once sojourned, and etched and engraved for old John Bowles, of the Black Horse, Cornhill." No authority on Hogarth appears to have paid the slightest attention to this remark. If Hogarth ever sojourned on London Bridge, perhaps it was only for a few months. But could it have been in the house where Monamy lived? Jack Laguerre, "who died in poverty in 1748", was also an occasional pub sign painter. See here. When Monamy moved to Westminster, presumably Laguerre stayed on.


Towards the end of 2004 the spotlight fell on an exceptionally interesting painting by Monamy, depicting the first Eddystone lighthouse. This picture is discussed in some detail here, together with two other Eddystone paintings of later date.

At present I believe this picture will have been painted some time between 1708 and 1712, for reasons explained on the lighthouse pages.

mirror insert: v & a museum: sailmaker style: must be very early

mirror insert: based on sailmaker print of sheerness: circa 1710-14?

Royal Sovereign on the Medway below Rochester Castle
Sotheby, 8/4/98, lot 4, 23½ x 28¾. Authorship subject to discussion.

Christie's, 21/3/75, lot 108, signed, one of a pair, 8¾ x 11¾
this, to my mind, very attractive little painting suggests a blue and white dutch tile
the pointing boys are typical, and their gestures recur later: pre-1707 flag

Christie's, 21/3/75, lot 108, unsigned, one of a pair, 8¾ x 11¾
paired with the previous, this seems much inferior, except for the foreground staffage

There seems a slight detail resemblance in the above painting to one of Kirkall's mezzotints after Monamy, probably from the early 1730s.

But, if there is any link, which came first? The mezzotint, here reversed, could perhaps have been developed from the earlier, much cruder, painting. Maybe it's just a figment of imagination.

A pair, unsigned, recently auctioned as Monamy at Christie's
Possibly early works; just as possibly by someone else, much later

mirror insert: intimations of van de velde? perhaps c 1718

The oeuvre for the years 1704 to about 1720 is highly problematic. Monamy's painting output until he was over 40 years old remains extremely conjectural.

Based on the undoubted authenticity of Monamy's paintings of the Winstanley and Rudyerd Eddystone lighthouses, the first of which I firmly believe to have been one of his earliest works, it seems the time has come to speculate with greater concentration on what might have occupied him during the years 1704 to 1715. See page here.


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