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

Politics and Religion
Art & Art History & More

Some Extra Random Remarks

a messenger

This page has been prompted by dipping, yet again, into the works of Sir Roy Strong. Perhaps I have been unduly harsh, elsewhere on this site, in drawing attention to his remarks about the absence of art associated with the sea and marine painting, expressed in the Spirit of Britain, 1999 The extract below comes from The Arts in Britain, paperback, 2004, the new title of The Spirit of Britain. The change of title is of interest.

The passage at right comes from Chapter 21, titled Pomp and Circumstance, page 281, of The Arts in Britain. It describes the Restoration of the Stuart monarchy, in the person of Charles II Stuart.

Because the description is vivid it is also illuminating. It reveals how closely, in this period, the arts and politics were entwined. "The arts of architecture, painting, music and drama combined to present to the onlooking crowd the new king as conqueror, saviour and peace-maker."

The entire chapter concerning pomp and circumstance in Sir Roy's titles is something of a revelation. It firmly establishes that "art", in the opinion of those suitably trained and qualified to judge, is patronised by royalty, especially those of the Roman persuasion. It strikes me as not insignificant that the city of London is being cast as the city of Rome, alongside the Thames as Tiber. This Roman persuasion would not have included George I, who hardly aspired to identify himself with Christ entering Jerusalem, but it did later include the spaniel of Spain and certain members of his family, previous and subsequent; especially when hailed as the great Moses.

The spirit of Britain is not in Rome, but among the seamen of England: "Blake, Candish, Drake, men void of slavish fears".

From the conversion of the "Iron-times to Gold", it is now instructive to turn to a study by Bernard Capp, 1989, entitled Cromwell's Navy. The Fleet and the English Revolution. Although I have a fair idea of its content, this work is not presently at hand, so I'll temporise with some relevant art of a maritime flavour.

published 1728

This image exists in more than one variation, and was published repeatedly, ultimately as late as 1758. The original plate seems engraved by Sutton Nicholls (fl.1680 - 1740), the London topographical engraver, printseller and publisher. After Louis Chéron (1660 - 1725) and Thomas Baston (fl.1699 - 1730). In 1728 it included this note: "NB. Considering ye vast Improvement in Naval Building it was thought it would be most agreeable to represent ye Fleet as compos'd of Modern Ships, at top are several Hieroglyphick Figures." Was this note an indication of the potential of the Fleet to re-revolt in co-temporary times, c 1728-30 ?

"On 10 March 1742 the House of Commons voted that Northumberland, the lord high admiral, should be asked to appoint Robert Rich, second Earl of Warwick, admiral of the Fleet which was then getting ready to put to sea. The king ordered Northumberland to appoint Sir John Pennington, but the Commons insisted, and Northumberland accordingly granted Warwick's commission. Charles I renewed the struggle three months later by dismissing Northumberland from his office (28 June), on which parliament passed an ordinance directing Warwick to continue in command (1 July). Armed with this authority Warwick went on board the fleet the next day, overcame the resistance of those officers who adhered to the king and was able to report on 4 July that the navy was at the parliament's disposal. Eighteen months later he was appointed lord high admiral in place of Northumberland. Warwick's ships were chiefly employed in guarding the seas, in intercepting vessels bringing supplies from the continent to the king or the Irish rebels, and acting as auxiliaries to the land forces of the parliament. The king was obliged to rely on ships hired abroad or belonging to ports under his control."

In his book Capp explores the nature and role of the Navy during the English Revolution. After the king's execution in 1649, the navy's leadership was drastically remodelled, with republican and Puritan outsiders being brought into key positions. Capp examines the fleet's part in the political history of the period, both domestic and international, and its intervention in the critical months before the Restoration.

Capp's study argues that the commonwealth navy did not, as is often assumed, stand back from domestic political controversies, but was deeply influenced by the revolutionary circumstances of its origins. The new regime saw a large and politically reliable fleet as essential to its survival, and the years after 1649 witnessed a rapid build-up and a drastic remodelling of the officer corps, with political and religious radicalism becoming major criteria in the selection of officers. The book charts the navy's central role in the struggle to win foreign recognition for the new regime, and in the wars which followed: the period saw England's first major war at sea, against the Dutch. The navy's response to political change at home, and its intervention in the Restoration crisis of 1659-60 are also examined. This book enhances understanding of the Cromwellian period.

The interesting study published by Clare Haynes in 2006, entitled Pictures and Popery, poses 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 had been provided by Elizabeth Einberg, in 1987, namely that the Virtuosi of St Luke, a group of self-appointed art arbiters, contained "several Tories and Roman Catholics". Einberg draws attention to this in Manners & Morals: Hogarth & British Painting 1700-1760, but only in passing. The even shorter answer must be that "art" was the medium whereby Catholic Jacobites and Stuart adherents endeavoured to mount their counter-thrust to the Glorious Revolution.

On page 84 of Pictures and Popery Clare Haynes remarks that Horace Walpole's Sermon on Painting (1742) which forms part of the Aedes Walpolianae, was intended in part "to eulogise his father, Sir Robert Walpole". Sir Robert was presented thus: "see the Great Moses himself ! the Lawgiver, the Defender, the Preserver of Israel". Haynes contends that Horace was "trying to develop a specifically and theoretically cogent, Protestant approach to art in the Sermon." I doubt that, frankly. More like a specifically Roman Catholic approach.

Marine painting by anyone, let alone Monamy, does not once feature in Clare Haynes' Pictures and Popery. This is understandable, since English marine painting does not qualify as "art", by those who have been suitably trained and prepared to judge. Marine painting, nevertheless, is second to none as the natural British anti-popery art genre. Clare mentions landscape, once, on pp 21- 22, and quotes Addison: "'Tis Liberty that crowns Britannia's Isle". It does not seem to be recognised that it was Britannia's rule of the waves that crowned her Liberty. Marine painting is therefore ignored.

The situation is muddled and complicated by Their Catholic Majesties, Charles and James, munificently patronising the van de Velde father and son. The van de Veldes spent approximately fifteen years under the wings of Charles II and the Duke of York, later James II. On the arrival of William III in 1688 they were ousted from Greenwich, and do not seem to have received any further royal commissions, although the Younger appears to have retained his £100 annual pension until his death in 1707. The eight paintings below should be enough to show that Monamy had little in common with the van de Veldes. He did, however, paint ships and the sea. The Elder van de Velde had been a ship draughtsman. Monamy had been a sign-painter, and therefore a communicator. He had something to say. Monamy was committed to England's Glory: van de Velde sought and took employment with whomever paid best, ready to flirt with Catholicism if required.

At presnt, it seems to me that Monamy was obviously not a Huguenot, as currently suggested by the Tate Gallery. For Monamy, however, even more than France, Rome would have been the origin of all that was vile and barbaric. There is little doubt, to my mind, that the first Monamy in the Channel Islands, circa 1520, was a Marrano or Converso who, along with up to a million others, had fled the Inquisition, either from Spain or Portugal, not wishing to be burnt alive. Although completely assimilated into English society and culture, the one commitment that anyone bearing the Monamy name would retain was anti-catholicism. Tennyson had the right idea, when he wrote of the "Inquisition Dogs, and the Devildoms of Spain".

About 1733, with the rise of Walpole, and the Excise Crisis, the situation became uncomfortable for Monamy. He was a key player representing the patriotic opposition to the Walpole regime. This opposition, then supported by Frederick, Prince of Wales, vigorously sought the world-wide expansion of English trade, and the downfall of Spain, accompanied by the downfall of France; as well as firm rejection of the Papacy and the Roman Catholic church. London merchants and naval officers were tremendously eager to let the fleet loose, across the Atlantic. This aspect of the history needs to be addressed, and the pictures reflecting the situation should be placed in context. The objectivity of British art "historians" has been completely misguided for at least the last 300 years. The navy had declared itself on the side of Parliament, and that is why marine painting has been ignored by the connoisseurs.

Few books on British art history, in general, address the significance of marine painting, and the parts played by Monamy and Scott, on opposite political sides, up to the overthrow of Walpole in 1742. Scott was a Walpole bought poodle. Horace was almost demented in his praise of Scott as a marine painter. This was to set him up as a rival to Monamy, who was dedicated to the Walpole opposition, and, concurrently, anti-George II. Monamy appears never to have had a particular patron, and this makes him, along with Hogarth, almost unique among 18th century painters --- outside portraiture. Thomas Walker, Robert Walpole's toad-eater, cannot ever have been Monamy's patron.

.... by industrious valour climb
To ruin the great work of time
And cast the kingdom old
Into another mould

Opinions may only be expressed by those suitably qualified to give opinions.
"The picture's value is the picture's price"

An Explanation for the Rise of Monamy. See here.

monamy website index
monamy anomalies       monamy problems
a modern eye-stretching account
à bout de souffle
walpole's anecdotes
hervey & others on robert walpole
peter monamy and british art historians
peter monamy painting selection
walpole opposition
popery & painting
patronage & painting

A Reminder

Selection of genuine paintings by Monamy
Van de Velde's paintings are mainly about the ships. Monamy's paintings are not mainly about the ships.
They are about what the Spirit of Britain once was

Paintings like these made J.M.W.Turner a painter.

The Menace from Europe. Peter Monamy's view of Dunkirk.

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© Charles Harrison-Wallace 2018
all rights reserved

see Tate Catalogue Entry.

Although the Tate Gallery Illustrated Companion, 1979, largely repeats the views of Horace Walpole,
its above comment on Peter Monamy shows some original perception.

In the revised and expanded 1991 edition of the Tate Gallery Illustrated Companion,
written by Simon Wilson, "curator of interpretation",
Peter Monamy has completely vanished.
All marine painting is totally ignored.

See Catalogue Entry Tate Gallery

"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