monamy website index

"..... a scholarly myth can spread 'like a computer virus' until it becomes accepted historical fact."
Helen Morales, TLS, May 15, 2009, p 11

"Harold Osborne proposes that works of art are objects 'adapted to sustain aesthetic contemplation
in a suitably trained and prepared observer' ------ obviously a useless definition ."
John Carey, What Good are the Arts ?, 2005, p 15.

Royal Collection. Currently, 2016, believed to be at Highgrove House near Tetbury in Gloucestershire.
Date of execution uncertain.

Patronage and Painting

Some Notes

The importance of patronage for the 18th century painter cannot be over-estimated, and the nature of the painting from which the country tended to take its cue derived from the taste of the monarch, especially a Stuart. From the accession of George I in 1714 the climate was favourable, in terms of patronage and taste, for native English artists. Horace Walpole expressed it in these words: "The new monarch was void of taste it was more natural to George I to be content with, or even partial to, whatever he found established, than to seek for improvement and foreign ornament." This climate changed, radically, both politically and aesthetically, during the years following the death of George I in 1727, and during the decade from 1730 to 1740 Monamy would have found that his practice became increasingly hard-pressed, as it met with the censure of groups of self-appointed arbiters of taste, and the importation of quantities of old master paintings, as well as of artists and aesthetic concepts, from the Continent.

Before embarking on a slightly closer examination of the likely reasons for this change of climate, as addressed by Clare Haynes in Pictures and Popery, it could be appropriate to examine the following publications:

Tudor, Stuart & Early Georgian Pictures in the Royal Collection, Oliver Millar, 1963
The Queen's Pictures: Royal Collectors, Christopher Lloyd, Sir Oliver Millar, 1991
The Queen's Pictures: Old Masters from the Royal Collection, Christopher Lloyd, 1994
The Quest for Albion; Monarchy & Patronage of British Painting, Christopher Lloyd, 1998
The Paintings in The Royal Collection: a thematic exploration, Christopher Lloyd, 1999

Starting with Millar 1963, since his is liable to be the most informative of these publications, the text volume records "Monamy, Peter, 490, 495, 496", and gives a snapshot of the state of knowledge in 1963 about Monamy: "c. 1690-1749. Marine painter; a native of Jersey; deeply influenced by the work of the van de Veldes". These comments on date and place of birth, and indebtedness, are now known to be unfortunately wrong. The existence of a variant, signed and dated 1727, of No 490, which is the painting heading this page, is of considerable interest. See also here. Nos 492-496 are grouped as marine paintings by unknown artists. It is a pity that it does not seem to be known how these pictures, especially No 490, came to be in the Royal Collection. No 495 is judged to be a copy of a Monamy.

No 496, see right, is believed of the Battle of Cape Passaro, 1718, painted in the 1730s, and now de-attributed from Monamy. Why is not explained. To my unsuitably prepared eye it seems not improbably by Monamy, though there is also a touch of Swaine about it. This would place it in the 1750s. Why is it so confidently said to be painted in the 1730s ? English ships engage with Spanish.

Lloyd, 1991, with an essay by Millar, is at hand. This contains 96 pictures from the Royal Collections and was intended to accompany an exhibition held to inaugurate the opening of a new wing at the National Gallery. There are no marine paintings, unless we allow two of Claude Lorrain's Harbour Scenes, and very few of the 96 are by natives, so let us move on. The feeling is growing that although the monarchy may nominally have a say in its collection of art, the fact is that its taste is determined by its advisers, suitably trained and prepared.

In 1994 the closest Lloyd gets to the maritime is Rembrandt's The Shipbuilder and his Wife, and there is a touch of the martial in Stubbs' Soldiers of the Tenth Light Dragoons. I jest; but note that both these pictures are strongly approved of by Prince Charles. How could that Stubbs be included, and the Monamy not ? There is a Harbour Scene by Claude, and a Canaletto, neither acceptable as marines. The most interesting inclusion is Hogarth's portrait of Garrick and his wife. The accompanying note completely disregards the comment by John Nichols, see below, who found the picture so strangely upsetting. The studies of Bernd Krysmanski have persuaded me to look twice at the works of Hogarth. Hogarth had a remarkably low opinion of the charlatans of "taste" in England. Garrick owned three pictures by Monamy.

Hogarth's ambiguous thinking: 1761


Leap forward to Lloyd 1998, The Quest for Albion: Monarchy and the Patronage of British Painting, which contains no marine paintings at all. "The Romans connected Albion with albus, white, and referred it to the white cliffs of Dover". Although the Celts are then said to have adopted the name "Britannia", this reference to the Romans seems to anticipate Roy Strong's remarkable assertion in The Spirit of Britain, 1999, quoting Camden, that "the country's cultural roots" can be "firmly located ..... as the civilisation of Rome." Strong also stated that in England "there is no great literature of the sea, nor great school of marine painters", p 680. Lloyd inevitably quotes the poisonous Horace Walpole, p 15, that during the reign of George I, "we are now arrived at the period in which the arts were sunk to the lowest ebb in Britain". This was, of course, the period when indigenous painting was truly allowed to flourish. Lloyd does go on to recognize the animus of Hogarth, especially during the reigns of the later Georges.

Move on to Lloyd, 1999, A Thematic Exploration. This does not thematically address marine painting, but it does mention the van de Veldes, Serres, de Loutherbourg and J.M.W.Turner. The only sea painters illustrated are de Loutherbourg and Turner. Lloyd seems particularly fond of de Loutherbourg, who has three pictures illustrated. Monamy, who has one of the most notable marine paintings in the Royal Collection, see above, is again ignored.

Clare Haynes posed this question: what is "the explanation for the seeming contradiction of a militantly Protestant nation such as England, [having] a high regard for Catholic art ?" In addition the point is made that "the fact that a great deal of Catholic art was so highly regarded and sought after seems puzzling." The short answer must be that "art" was one medium whereby crypto-Catholic Jacobites and Stuart adherents endeavoured to mount their counter-thrust to the Reformation and Glorious Revolution. So let us have a decko at a few more tomes:

The Defeat of James Stuart's Armada 1692, Philip Aubrey, 1979
Lord Bolingbroke: Contributions to the Craftsman, Simon Varey editor, 1982
Jacobitism and the English People, 1688-1788, Paul Kléber Monod, 1989
Poetry & Jacobite Politics in C18th Britain & Ireland, Murray G.H.Pittock, 1994
Lord Burlington: Architecture, Art and Life, Toby Barnard & Jane Clark editors, 1995
Protestantism and National Identity, Tony Claydon and Ian McBride, 1998

The waters of Jacobitism are murky. History can be read as a conspiracy, or a cock-up. How does one thread a way through the snares of deception, deceit and irony that can be suspected ? Start with the most straightforward narrative: Aubrey's Defeat of James Stuart's Armada 1692. My theme, broadly, is that the van de Veldes were aligned with the Restoration Stuarts; Sailmaker and Monamy aligned with Cromwell, and the William of Orange Revolution Whigs. Not, of course, the Great Whig Landlords. These factions morphed in time into Jacobites and Patriots. Figures such as the Walpoles, father and son, would trim their sails, depending on which way the wind was blowing. Constitutionally and genetically they inclined towards Stuart values.

At left is an illustration from Chapter 8, p 132, of Aubrey's account of the defeat of James Stuart. Colour has been added.

The book's jacket features the "Fireships at La Hogue", by Adrian van Diest. See here.

Is it by design that these illustrations are not by van de Velde ? Is it not unlikely that van de Velde would depict the massive defeat of the man who had been one of his generous patrons for 15 years; and who had awarded him an annuity of 100 for life ?

Can the drawing and oil painting reproduced here actually be by van de Velde ?

Can these attributions really be fully justified ?

Sailmaker paints the Britannia. Van de Velde's last painting is the Royal Sovereign. Does that signify ? The selection of paintings below should be enough to show that Monamy had virtually nothing in common with the van de Veldes. The Elder van de Velde was a ship draughtsman; Monamy was a sign-painter, and therefore a communicator. They did both paint ships at sea. Monamy was committed to Britannia's Rule and England's Glory: van de Velde sought and took employment with whomever paid best. Monamy, like Turner, was expressionistic.

Skipping, pro tem, Varey, Monod, Pittock, Claydon and McBride, the time has come to engage with Barnard and Clark's book of essays on Lord Burlington. In an attempt to clarify the murk, I believe the burden of the book is that Burlington imported a multiplicity of artistic concepts, and he was also a closet Jacobite. His influence persists, in the Courtauld Institue and the Apollo and Burlington magazines. The celebration of England's Glory, via Britannia's maritime triumphs, is downplayed in favour of shiploads of dead Christs and Madonnas. Suitably prepared connoisseurs today still automatically turn their backs on marine paintings, without knowing why.

When freemasonry is mixed in with the confusing pot-pourri served up by Barnard and Clark, who can tell what on earth is going on? The Duke of Norfolk, Head of the Roman Catholics of Great Britain, was made Grand Master in 1730. Freemasonry was banned by the Pope in 1738, who issued a Bull against the fraternity. It does not seem to have deterred the secret Jacobites.

At left is a portrait of the third Earl of Burlington with his wife and daughters, by Jean-Baptiste van Loo. Hogarth's reaction to the unwelcome presence of interloper van Loo may be discovered here.

According to Jane Clark, pp 290 and 303, the black servant boy in this picture is either a masonic symbol, or a reference to Charles II, or both.

The line of verse comes from Garrick's Prologue to Taste, which he is writing in Hogarth's picture of him and his wife, so offensive to John Nichols.

Maybe more to come, before I check out.
Like here: British Painting 1660-1815

See here for Ruskin on van de Velde, and the Dutch.

I am not concerned here with taste, or relative merit, in painting.
I much prefer Vermeer, Rembrandt and Bakhuysen to Freud, Bacon, and Warhol,
let alone Alfred Wallis.

See Garrick's opinion of the taste of his times, by Hogarth

From Gestures, by Desmond Morris, 1979

Nichols, in Biographical Anecdotes of William Hogarth, 1782, opines (p.11) that "The whole-length of Mr Garrick sitting at a table, with his wife behind him taking the pen out of his hand, confers no honour on the painter or the persons represented."

Opinions may only be expressed by those suitably qualified to give opinions.

"The picture's merit is the picture's price"

An Explanation for the Rise of Monamy. See here.

monamy website index
monamy anomalies       monamy problems
à bout de souffle
adrian van diest & la hogue etc
walpole's anecdotes
hervey & others on robert walpole
peter monamy and british art historians
peter monamy's best         royal occasions
walpole opposition
a modern eye-stretching account

Scanned directly from The London Gazetteer, February 9th, 1749

Selection of genuine paintings by Monamy
Van de Velde's paintings are about the ships.         Monamy's paintings are not about the ships.

"The shallow waves that rolled under his window" ---- Horace Walpole, 1780
"He is reputed to have excelled in calms" ----- Samuel Redgrave, 1878
"His ocean is invariably the weakest part of his work" ----- Colonel M.H.Grant, 1926
"tameness and lack of vigour" ----- E.Keble Chatterton, 1928
"his work has little variety" ----- Anonymous Sheep, 1970
"It cannot be said that his work ever approached the sublime". ---- E.H.H.Archibald, 1980.
"Most of his ... career was devoted to careful imitations of van de Velde's style" ---- Stephen Deuchar, 1996

".....the styles of Scott and Peter Monamy, and ultimately of all the English marine artists of the eighteenth century,
were formed entirely on that of the Van de Veldes."
From The Oxford History of English Art 1625-1714, by Margaret Whinney and Oliver Millar, 1957, p.275

Utter Rubbish

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© Charles Harrison-Wallace 2016
all rights reserved


"It is difficult not to impute great beauty to paintings that are the highest-priced, equally hard not to downgrade art that is cheap"
Martin Gardner, The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener, p 77