Monamy, Prince Fred & Vauxhall Gardens

An excerpt from Poor Fred: the People's Prince, page 146.


The display caption (February 2016) next to Monamy's painting of ships in distress in the Tate Gallery correctly describes him as "born in London, though his family were originally from the Channel Island of Guernsey"; but then adds: "and probably of Huguenot (French Protestant) ancestry".

Since the Huguenots are judged to have come into existence "some time between 1550 and 1580", and the Monamy family was firmly established in the Channel Islands by 1530, it seems wrong to describe them as Huguenots. These family members were, in my opinion, very much more probably Marrano or Converso refugees from the Roman Catholic Inquisition in Spain or Portugal. One defining family characteristic is their dedicated anti-Catholicism, a trait they admittedly later shared with Huguenots.

The gallery label then trots out the familiar mantra of how marine painting had been imported by the Dutch. Anything Dutch about the Taking of Porto Bello ?

From Vauxhall Gardens.

"This scene of a storm at sea follows the Dutch tradition of such pictures. ..... it may have brought to mind the ‘Great Storm’ of 1703 which wrecked many ships at sea". Since any familiarity with the progression of Monamy's painting manner over the 45 years of his toil at the easel makes it extremely unlikely that this picture was painted before 1730, it is equally extremely doubtful that it would have brought to mind the storm of 1703. An earlier version of the gallery label remarked that the painting "anticipated Turner's stormy sensibility", a rather more perceptive comment.

The Redgraves, though not entirely able to extricate themselves from Walpole's baleful influence, nevertheless managed to reduce the van de Veldes to a more acceptable dimension. Quote: "In marine painting, a branch of the landscape painter's art which might have been supposed to appeal most directly to the national tastes, two foreigners, the Vandeveldes, found much employment under the last two sovereigns of the Stuart family, and fostered a few pupils and followers". The association of the "Vandeveldes" with the Stuarts is apt.The several misleading errors committed by Vertue and Walpole persist, unfortunately.

Left, another illuminating excerpt from Vauxhall Gardens, page 42.

The embryonic egalitariansim of Jonathan Tyers, would not have appealed to Horace Walpole, naturally, and, with the appearance of Ranelagh, Horace was eventually to discourse on the superior merits of this rival. The Walpoles were, of course, no great friends of the Prince of Wales, who identified with the patriotic gardens. As James Boswell later wrote: "Vauxhall Gardens is peculiarly adapted to the taste of the English nation".

However, by 1744 Frederick had been seduced away to Ranelagh, according to Morris Marples, 1970, p 89.

Both Horace Walpole and Prince Frederick of Wales are elusive characters. Below is a quote lifted from Morris Marples regarding the Prince:

Others have disgreed with Smollett's opinion.

For an opinion of Horace, one might most happily settle for the verdict of Lord Macaulay.


Poor Fred One
Poor Fred Two
francis swaine
prints after swaine
monamy's ages & manners
monamy & orthodoxy
monamy website index
site introduction

Locke condensed by the Redgraves.

Some reading

2011. Vauxhall Gardens, A History, by David Coke & Alan Borg

The truth, as Roger de Piles memorably remarked, is that: "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; without considering what care the painter took about them, and what age he was of when he drew them. ..... There is none also that had not his beginning, his progress, and his end; that is to say, three manners."      This comes from the English translation of his Art of Painting, 1706.

See here for the three ages and manners of the painter.





© Charles Harrison-Wallace 2017
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