The greatest historical heresy that a writer can commit in the eyes of many English readers is to tell them the truth.
Alexander Fraser Tytler, Lord Woodhouselee, 1747 - 1813, author, translator and lawyer.

If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear
In a world of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.
Truth is treason in an empire of lies.
George Orwell, 1903 - 1950


errors in red

until 2009

2016: Extra Errors

The Jersey Society in London

A paper read at the Society's meeting on February 11th (1900/1901 ?)
by Mr Robert G.L.Phelps

Previous to our meeting in October last among other prints exhibited was a copy of the one now before you. I was totally unacquainted with the name or history of Peter Monamy. Since then I have acquired the portrait in question, to which I will refer later. I am indebted for the greater part of the following account to the Dictionary of National Biography edited by Sydney Lee, published by Smith Elder & Co., London 1894.

He was a marine painter, born of poor parents about 1670, and was a native of Jersey. He was sent to London when a boy, and apprenticed to an ordinary house-painter on London Bridge, but having a real aptitude for painting he devoted himself to drawing the shipping and other similar subjects on the Thames. He based his manner on those of the two William van de Veldes, and soon became known to the seafaring community. His pictures were marked not only by good execution, but by close and accurate acquaintance with all the minor details of shipping. His colour was, however, somewhat tame and ineffective. There are three pictures by him at Hampton Court - No.901 Sea fight, a Man-of-War attacked by boats, and No.915, a small Sea-piece, No.691, a Man-of-War engaged with two vessels.

The following remarks appear in the Hampton Court Catalogue: - (by Ernest Law, B.A.)

These three pictures are in the Queen's (Now no doubt the King's) Presence Chamber. The following note appears under No. 915. This is an excellent specimen of Peter Monamy, an imitator, and probably pupil, of the Vanderveldes. Though much cracked it is beautifully painted, "showing a fine quality of texture, with great precision of touch; the calm plane of the ocean level receding into the extreme distance, without that set scenic effect of passing cloud-shadows, which even the best masters have used to obtain the appearance of recession and distance; this work well deserves notice, and might puzzle the best painters of such subjects to rival". (Redgrave's Century of Painters.)

At the Painter-Stainer's Hall, Little Trinity Lane, E.C., there are also three of his pictures - No. 16, A Calm, which is a large seapiece, was presented to the hall by the painter in 1726; No. 18, A Sea Storm, and No. 61, Shipping. In the Catalogue of the National Gallery of British Art at South Kensington, I find No. 249, The Old East India Wharf at London Bridge, - Warehouses occupy the left of the picture; merchandise is strewed about; coopers are packing cases for shipping, and a merchant's clerk with porters is noting cargo. A cart and horses are in the mid-ground, the shipping in the river forming the background of the composition, Canvas 63 x 54, upright. Bought No. 1398/69 Vessels at Sea. Canvas 63 x 44 oblong. In circulation. Townshend Bequest. Monamy painted parts of the decorative paintings at Vauxhall, including some representing Admiral Vernon's victories. He also decorated a carriage for the ill-fated Admiral Byng. He resided during the latter part of his life on the river side in Westminster, where he died early in February 1749 in poor circumstances, as most of his work was done for dealers. His portrait, painted by H.Stubly, was engraved by J.Faber junior in 1731. Mr E.T.Nicolle, Hon: Secretary of the Societe writes me as follows under date of December 12/01: -

"With reference to the portrait of Monamy; the original was a few years ago in the possession of ........, and I understand it is still there."

Another, engraved by Bretherton, is in Walpole's "Painters". An interesting painting of Monamy showing a picture to a patron, Thomas Walker, is in the possession of the Earl of Derby, and was formerly at Strawberry Hill; the figures were painted by William Hogarth, and the sea-piece by Monamy. Monamy also executed a few etchings.




Left: No. 61, Shipping. This unsigned picture, which is not large, was photographed in Painter-Stainer's Hall in about 1981, when Michael Robinson and I went there. Michael decided that it was a copy of van de Velde's "Cannon Shot", probably painted in the 19th century. The label then read: "Peter Monamy, 1670-1749. Presented by the Artist on his admission to the Livery in 1726". The label should obviously have been attached to the "Calm, which is a large sea piece", recorded in 1902 by Mr R.G.L.Phelps, above, as No.16.

The picture "lost in the blitz" (Archibald, 1980), an assertion blindly repeated as "destr. WWII" (Deuchar, 1996) would equally obviously have been No.18, A Sea Storm, which is now, whether destroyed or otherwise gone AWOL, no longer to be found.

The fairly close emulation of van de Velde's Cannon Shot, above, must be the picture presented to the Painter-Stainer's Company in 1874 by W.Naylor, Master of the Company. The fate of the Sea Storm exercises the imagination.

Bulletin of La Société Jersiaise

Biography of Peter Monamy - 1670-1749. Painter
cf. Bulletin 26. p xxii

Peter Monamy, the subject of the few words which comprise my knowledge of our Local artist, was born in Jersey, of poor parents, about the year 1670. He was brought by them to London when quite young, and was apprenticed to a house and sign painter on London Bridge. He devoted himself, however, to drawing shipping on the Thames and elsewhere, following the manner of the two William van de Veldes. He soon became well known. His pictures are marked by good execution, and close and accurate acquaintance with minor maritime details. But in colour he is somewhat tame and ineffective.

There are said to be two pictures by him in Hampton Court, but none are so catalogued. They must, if still there, be among those described as "painter unknown", or among those attributed to one or other of the van de Veldes. There is, however, a picture of his in the Dulwich Gallery¹, a picture by the way, which was long attributed to W. van de Velde. There is also a large sea-piece in the Hall of the Painter-Stainers Company, presented to the Company by Monamy in 1726. There is also one in the possession of the Earl of Derby at Knowsley. It was originally in Horace Walpole's Collection at Strawberry Hill², and was bought at the sale of his effects by the then Lord Derby, for 21 guineas, This picture is thus described in the auction catalogue.

"Monamy the painter showing a sea-piece to his patron, Thomas Walker, Esq."

"The figures by Hogarth, but the sea-piece in the picture is by Monamy".

Monamy was reputed a man of great intelligence, and to judge from his portrait, painted by P.Stubly, had great personal attractions. This portrait was engraved in mezzotint by J.Faber, Junior, in 1731. There is an engraving by Bretherton of another portrait in Walpole's painters. Among his other works, besides some etching, were part of the decorations at old Vauxhall, giving representations of Admiral Vernon's victories. He also decorated a carriage for the less fortunate Admiral Byng. Monamy died at his own house in Westminster in February 1749: poor, because, so it is stated, he only worked for dealers.

¹ The catalogued description is appended.
² An extract from Horace Walpole's Anecdotes of Painting, dealing with Monamy, is also appended


298. Dulwich Gallery.
A calm (Monamy). Two sailing vessels on the left, four men on the deck of the larger one, and one in the rigging: small sailing vessels in the mid-distance: a warship firing on the right: a rowing boat with two men near the front. Cloudy sky with a bright effect of cool sunlight. This picture was formerly attributed to W. van de Velde.

Walpole. Anecdotes of Painting. ed. N.Wornum     Swan, Sonnenschein, 1888.
Vol: II, p. 287, Peter Monamy ( - 1749) faced by portrait mentioned in the article on Monamy in the Dictionary of National Biography. A good painter of sea-pieces, etc.

The errors highlighted above can be described as innocent, and result from misplaced faith in the accuracy and reliability of the notices penned by Vertue, Walpole and the DNB. The Redgraves also made a serious error in thinking the pictures at Hampton Court were by Monamy. These pictures were, however, no doubt negligently catalogued as his by the C19th curator. The errors which follow can be categorized as howlers, and derive from the casual indifference of those posing as custodians of our naval heritage.

From Masters of Maritime Art, 1937; Introduction by Geoffrey Callender
As a historian, art or maritime, Callender was an unmitigated disaster.

slavish ----- a word to conjure with !

Der ständige Vergleich, der heute gerne zwischen Ludolf Backhuysen und Willem van de Velde angestellt wird, und die angebliche Konkurrenz-Beziehung, die ihnen nachgesagt wird, wurde grösstenteils in diesem Jahrhundert konstruiert und ist irrelevant.

How should the above entry in E.H.H.Archibald's Dictionary of Sea Painters, 1980, 1st and 2nd editions, be tackled? Almost one third of it is devoted to discussing whether Monamy was born in 1680 or 1681. Given the concentration on this remarkably unimportant point, it is even more remarkable that the painter's baptism is reported as taking place in St Olave's, Bermondsey, when it actually took place at St Botolph's without Aldgate. If the "niceties" of the calendar change are of such interest, why isn't the same calendar applied to the date of Monamy's freedom (ie 1704) as to his baptism? "The biggest painting by Monamy in existence" is the very same as the one later said to have been "lost in the blitz". The compiler was not to know, in 1980, that the Monamy family in Guernsey, starting with Andrieu Mon Amy, born c 1547, had produced at least six boys named André/Andrew; which does not excuse the statement that he was "called after his uncle" being copied in the ODNB, 2004. What is the evidence that Andrew was a silversmith? The evidence is that he was a trader in salt and wool. Perhaps silver was a sideline. The ridiculous story about Monamy's name was originally related by G.A.S.Norman, and need not be laid to Archibald's charge. It was probably concocted by my maiden great-aunts Vera and Monamy Beryl Buckell, to divert the small boys in their care. Nevertheless, simple common sense should have prevented its repetition in this publication. As pointed out elsewhere, the van de Veldes had virtually nothing to do with the enthusiasm of the English middle classes for ship paintings. Monamy did not especially closely follow the style of the van de Veldes. Archibald's wildly disinformative entry, however, is closely followed by S.Deuchar; see here. Before that, we have another ridiculous account in 1990, below.

from Mirror of Empire, 1990, ed George S.Keyes, p 23
See also here.
Anything said of Turner can be said of Monamy, with almost equal truth.

What follows, committed to print in 1996, is perhaps the most stunning example imaginable of slavish adherence to previous error, laughably unscholarly and deplorable in every respect. It is quite incredible that this colander of faults should have seen daylight a full 15 years after the first reasonably balanced account of Monamy's life and work.

0. Since the writer means baptism, not birth, he should write bap. Since 1681 is NS, he should be consistent. See note 7.
1. Perhaps there actually are English schoolboys today who can't work out that mon ami is French for "my friend". The writer is evading the issue of whether Monamy's roots were in Jersey or Guernsey. Risible.
2. "House painter" is misleading. The writer should make clear what house decoration implied in 1696. At the very least he should write "sign and house painter". James Thornhill was a house painter. Laguerre was a house painter. Verrio was a house painter.
3. Where does the date "1710" come from? Monamy was almostly certainly painting shipping scenes before long into his apprenticeship, and at least ten years before 1710. There is every indication that he set up in business on London Bridge on his own in about 1704.
4. Totally fails to understand the true nature of the "local market" for ship paintings in 1707.
5. "Most" of Monamy's career was indubitably NOT "devoted to careful imitations" of van de Velde's "style". This writer is unable to look at marine paintings with minimal perception. Among the approximately 500 paintings I am aware of, precisely one could be described as a "careful" imitation of a van de Velde.
6. Monamy did not, according to Vertue, distinguish himself by imitating van de Velde, but by constant practice in ship painting, drawing on a wide variety of "famous masters in this manner", not excluding the van de Veldes, but including a host of others lumped together by Vertue as "etc".
7. Since the writer has adopted NS for Monamy's baptism, why does he revert to OS for Monamy's freedom? Answer, because he is copying E.H.H.Archibald.
8. This statement is farcical, and can only be put down to menial repetition of Archibald's ludicrous blunder in 1980. See recent photograph of this painting, here. Or here.
9. There were numerous rivals supplying the popular market for ship paintings throughout the early years of the C18th. This writer is ignorant of the true state of affairs. At least half a dozen names come immediately to mind, depending on the years in question.
10. "Employers" is a strange word to use.
11. Until somebody produces hard evidence that he owned one of Monamy's paintings, it is difficult to believe that Thomas Walker was even a customer. The valuation of his collection of over 90 paintings carried out in 1830 includes not a single work by Monamy. Since 1982, at the latest, the Monamy/Walker conversation piece has not been included in the Hogarth canon.
12. The idea that the East-Indiaman was a "fragment" of one of the Vauxhall paintings is silly, since we have an exact print record of these four paintings. It is academically farcical to perpetuate this fanciful speculation, founded on nothing but an inability to recognize original work.
13. The middle-class English taste for marine painting was strongly present from the time of the Glorious Revolution ---- and in fact probably started during the Interregnum. Monamy was responding to it, and benefiting from it. The role of the Fleet and its officers in empowering the arrival of William III, and securing the Hanoverian Accession, was paramount.
14. Because of his lack of patronage, and the arbitrations of the Virtuosi, Brooking was unable to "exploit" this market by the time he was in his prime. Walpole ignores Brooking.
15. Up until about 1730, when "connoisseurship" started to make its dire influence felt, Monamy was, on the contrary, notably prosperous.
16. What is the significance of referring to the "6 vols" of the Vertue Notebooks? Does it mean that this writer doesn't know where the mentions of Monamy actually occur?
17. Why mention this piece at all, if it is going to be slighted at every turn ? "Ed." is inaccurate. Check the integrity of the 1983 catalogue, here.

Jan 2008. Re-reading this unbelievable farrago again, I realise that it is so stuffed with errors that I wasn't able to take them all in, first time round. My notes tell me that Monamy was buried in St Margaret's on 7th February, 1749 (ns). Perhaps this writer has first-hand information that his actual death took place on 1st Feb. Every account I've read tells me that Monamy became a Liveryman of the Painter-Stainers in 1726. What exactly does (quote) "admitted to the Guild" mean? Wikipedia tells us this: "Livery Company members fall into two categories: freemen and liverymen. One may join as a freeman, and acquire the "Freedom of the Company". This may be by "patrimony" if either parent was a liveryman of the company, by "servitude" if one has served as an apprentice in the trade for the requisite number of years, or by "redemption", on interaction and payment of a 'fine'. Freemen generally advance to become liverymen by a vote of the Court of the Company. Liverymen can vote in the election of the Lord Mayor of London." Monamy would appear to have been a "member of the guild" since 1704, when he completed his servitude

Why does a presumably self-professed "professional" art historian omit any reference to Monamy's well-documented donation to the Foundling Hospital in 1748?

It is not impossible that E.H.H.Archibald had second thoughts after penning his Dictionary entry, since in The National Maritime Museum, a 1982 compilation edited by Basil Greenhill, he remarks (p 72) that "... Peter Monamy (1681-1749) was London-born and based, and dominated the marine school and the painting of naval actions for the first half of the century."

Sotheby's 26 Jan 2005, lot 3; 24 x 50½; unsigned; attributed to Monamy
Inanely catalogued as " An Action in the Channel between the English & Dutch Fleets"
This is not an action; and the only C18th Dutch v English action I am aware of took place in 1781.
Certainly not a Monamy anyway --- but by an unslavish follower, if you like.

Finally: Frederick Peter Seguier, A Critical & Commercial Dictionary, 1870
not quite on target, but too competent to write total rubbish

Homer also nods, alas. Errors in The Call of the Sea, 2009, an exhibition catalogue, are too ghastly to overlook or ignore. See pp 26, 55, and, a lesser one, p 51. The infection, though inexcusable, was caught from Cockett, Peter Monamy, 2000, p 66. Its nature may be detected by those interested.

john wood             m.w.knott
harry parker's work of fiction
chronology 1680-1754: published 1983
masters of maritime art
eminent experts
monamy website index

© Charles Harrison-Wallace 2005, 2008, 2011, 2013, 2016
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Below is the entry for Peter Monamy in Guernsey People, 1984, by L.James Marr. It would be churlish, not to say positively Palinesque, to refudiate Marr's generous (if jocular) accolade of "eminence", but it nevertheless has to be pointed out that the account he gives of Monamy's career contains several errors, mainly chronological, but no less stunning for that. These are picked out, in red.


Astounding --- when this finally sinks in. Monamy, free of his apprenticeship in 1704, according to Mr Marr, springs into fame in 1740 with his painting of Vernon's capture of Porto Bello --- his first independent commission, 36 years later !

Here is a sentence, p 96, from Empire of the Seas, 2009, by Brian Lavery, Curator Emeritus, NMM, Greenwich.

"Peter Monamy from Jersey started by copying the van de Veldes".

Stupefying. The London birth, and Guernsey ancestry, of Peter Monamy was established,
and even recorded by Archibald, 30 years before 2009.

Monamy neither started nor finished "by copying the van de Veldes".

a bout de souffle 28
a bout de souffle 23
extra errors: presumed innocent

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