"worse things happen at sea"

Gravesend was "a right name as every body of Sailors knows," it being where "many Never return again." Quoted from Ramblin' Jack: The Journal of Captain John Cremer, (edition 1936).

The Sailor's Fate: Two

26 x 37 signed p.monamy     provenance: ridley sale 1925

The wind in the above painting, as David Joel pointed out to me, is blowing uncomfortably against the tide. The storm-clouds are gathering. J.M.Nash, in The Age of Rembrandt and Vermeer, remarks of a well-known painting by Allart van Everdingen (1621-75) that:

"These images ..... have behind them long traditions. ... Van Everdingen develops another traditional image, taken from representations of Virtues and Vices. The virtue of Hope was represented [by Bruegel] as a castle enduring the storms of fate. .. van Everdingen shows a church withstanding the gales of adversity, and appears to present an analogy between the church and the beacon post in the foreground. The calendar and moral traditions often coincided, and Bruegel had included this emblem of Hope in his Month of February.

Allart van Everdingen   Snowstorm over Inland Waters   38 x 47½

This theme is expounded more fully by Lawrence Otto Goedde in Tempest and Shipwreck in Dutch and Flemish Art, pp 190-193, under the headings Thunderstorms over Local Waters: Humility and Divine Wrath, and The Gathering Storm: a Guide to Salvation. His comments are illustrated by Everdingen and van Ruisdael (1628-1682), and the two emblems published by Jacob Cats (1627) and Roemer Visscher (1614), below.

Jacob van Ruisdael   A Looming Storm

See here for more comment on van Ruisdael, and compare the sea in his painting with Monamy's. See also here for pictures by van Goyen, van Ruisdael, and Bakhuysen, which demonstrate that Monamy absorbed at least as much, if not far more, from a genre of atmospheric Dutch and other North European seascapes significantly different from the realistic precision of the van de Veldes.

The Visscher emblem, top right, shows a beacon "overlooking an anchorage", and an anchor can be seen in the waves lapping the beach. For the significance of the anchor see here. Intelligentibus, Goedde points out, means "for those who understand". Monamy's painting, I submit, craves understanding. "What the beacons represent is guidance to salvation in time of peril": so why are his ships sailing away from it? His beacon undeniably and ominously resembles a gallows.

Jacob Cats' circular emblem, says Goedde, has a lemma in Latin, reading "Let your light shine before men". Rosemary Freeman, in English Emblem Books, notes that "Cats' emblems gave much more scope to the artist .... because they were ... concerned ... with aspects of social and domestic life", unlike similar books featuring Cupid, see below. Winged cherubs, or junior angels, persisted, however. The emblem books were very influential. "Jacob Cats's emblems formed one of the early models of Sir Joshua Reynolds", says Freeman, and his work "was known in England".

Central detail from Monamy's beacon painting. When discussing this canvas with Michael Robinson, he pointed out that the man of war was unrealistically near the shore to starboard. This would not have worried Monamy, however, since the painting is "about" something quite different. What is the rowing-boat doing out in this choppy weather? Smuggling?

These two little emblems come from Rosemary Freeman's book. She says, of the emblem from Quarles, that it "represents the human soul ship-wrecked in the seas of the world and Divine Love coming to the rescue." The image is copied, in reverse, from Pia Desideria, by Herman Hugo, Antwerp 1624. (Goedde, fig.84.) The Latin inscription reads Non me demergat tempestas aquae, neque absorbeat me profundum!, a line from Psalm 69, verse 15: "Let not the waterflood overflow me, neither let the deep swallow me up". Ayres' emblems come from Dutch originals, and are concerned solely with the "amorous adventures of Cupid". Amorous or not, marine images abound in these books. Ayres' Emblemata Amatoria was popular in the late 1600s and early 1700s, Cats was published in 1712 and 1726. "Changes in literary taste never banished Quarles's name", and his moral verses were "enthusiastically admired for their religious teaching by eighteenth century evangelical ministers". Monamy might well have owned a copy of the 1736 edition, if not an earlier one.

Here is another storm with a beacon (detail), in a very small print, approximately 4½ x 3, inscribed J.S.Müller inv: del: et Sc: Publ: June 18. 1753 by J.Dilly et J.Buckland.

Although this print is dated 50 years after the Great Storm of 1703, the memory of it was still vivid.

Proverbially, the sailor's fate was to end either by hanging or drowning: see The Tempest, Act 1, Scene 1: "I have great comfort from this fellow. Methinks he hath no drowning mark upon him; his complexion is perfect gallows .... If he be not born to be hang'd, our case is miserable."

Some of the passages in Monamy's painting seem curiously reminiscent of passages in Hogarth's famous print of the Idle 'Prentice and his unenviable fate; but perhaps these correspondences are imaginary. Hogarth's sailor is pointing out the gallows on the shoreline.

hogarth print 1747

hogarth's preparatory drawing gives the oarsman a death's head

jan van goyen, 1596-1656: oil on oak, 14½ x 13, detail

j.m.w.turner: sketch for a sea piece; circa 1816-18

detail from a painting by mulier the elder

jacob van ruisdael: 1628-1682   ---   peter monamy: 1681-1749   ---   pieter mulier the elder: 1610-1670

three fluent followers of van de velde

We really need another page to accommodate all these followers: see here

the sailor's fate 1
"other famous masters in this manner": Lorrain, Dubbels, Backhuysen, Larson
marine painters
monamy website index
artistic range



© Charles Harrison Wallace 2001, 2004, 2013
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