port quarter views
Dates and Relationships
The investigative method adopted on this site is to start with the certain, and proceed via the reasonably certain to the less certain, ending with the extremely uncertain. This seems a sensible method, though not one always and consistently employed by writers on marine genre painting. In the unique and exceptional case of Peter Monamy, and what is known about his apprenticeship to painting, the danger of attributing works to him on the basis of traditionally received "quality" has become increasingly clear. See pages on chronology and authenticity. On this page the starting point is the Royal Occasion, below, credibly affirmed to be signed and dated 1724.
Version "A". A "Royal Occasion", signed and dated 1724. 39 x 60. Christie's, 24 May 1968, lot 42.
This painting was featured on a card sold in aid of The Missions to Seamen, during the 1970s (?). It was described as "King George I being rowed by Royal Watermen with Bargemaster from the Royal Yacht Peregrine, in the Thames Estuary. The Peregrine is lowering the Royal Standard and firing a Ceremonial Salute." The painting appeared in a Christie's sale, 24 May 1968, lot 42, when it was described as "The Royal Peregrine in the Thames Estuary, with other yachts firing a salute, and a royal barge in the foreground --- signed and dated 1724 --- 39 in by 60 in. Possibly illustrates the return of King George I from Hanover shortly before his death .... (actually in 1727)." Typo-ridden catalogue entry below:
This painting, along with the two very closely related canvases below it, may fairly be placed in the very reasonably certain category. My conjecture is that it represents a generalised illustration of the arrival of George I in 1714, and that it, and several others like it, would have been commissioned and bought by Londoners and trade guilds wanting to proclaim their loyalty to the Hanoverian succession. There would have been customers for such pictures anything up to ten or fifteen years after the event, even overlapping the accession of George II in 1727. The quality of this version I would describe as fair to middling.
Version "B". Auctioned 15th July 1998. Described as "The arrival of George II off Margate aboard the Royal Yacht Caroline
on his return from Hanover, September 1729." Signed. 29½ x 44¾. Bought from Stair & Andrews 1933
Exhibited at the RA, 1934. Reproduced in The Illustrated London News, 6 Jan 1934.
Judging only by this reproduction, this variant appears to be of slightly higher quality than the 1724 version. It is nevertheless very closely comparable. It was clearly thought fully worthy of exhibition. Its marginally greater precision very possibly indicates that it was painted after 1724, but it does not seem at all likely to me that it depicts George II's "return from Hanover in 1729"; and it is quite certainly not "off Margate".
Version "C". Signed, 34 x 47. The Grocer's Livery Company.
This third variant is the only one of the paintings on this page that I have actually seen. It was displayed at The Call of the Sea exhibition in Lymington, 2009. It is a very close variant of the 1724 painting, and was probably painted at about the same time.
Looking at these variants in closer detail it seems as if the variation in quality is insignificant. The differences remain interesting, particularly the sailors in the rigging and the treatment of the stern in version A. In spite of the primitive feel of these oil paintings there is a strong sense that the painter knew what the mariner's business was about. The other extremely interesting variation between these paintings --- well, extremely interesting to me, at any rate --- is the reversal or alteration of the selective fall of light on the sails of the royal yacht. This looks very like an experiment anticipating the similar changes in the two versions of the Signal to Anchor. See here. Since version A is dated 1724 I will now stick my neck out, and say that version C follows it, and B is a little later. I will also stick it out even further, and say that the two Signal to Anchor type paintings were painted about 4 or 5 years after A, and award myself a brownie point.
With the fourth picture, detail below, realms of extreme uncertainty are entered. Can this picture be by the same hand as the previous three? Stern comparisons to start with:
Another look at details from pictures A, below, and C, above. The barges, whoever is being transported in them, are definitely departing from the Peregrine yacht. The wind in the coloured picture C seems to have dropped very slightly in the near left-hand corner of the composition, which is otherwise very similar in all three paintings.
Below is a complete view of the fourth Royal Occasion.
This painting was knocking around the London art market towards the end of the 1970s. Its composition and figure details were judged so abominably crude that although it was said to be signed Monamy a consensus of marine experts concluded that it couldn't be by him, and the name of J.Cook was fancifully conjured up for a substitute attribution. Cook was actually a good marine painter. Nevertheless, it appears to depict the same "occasion", although the barges here, top and bottom of page, are rowing toward the Peregrine yacht. Since the standards have not been lowered, presumably George I is still on board.
the white line indicates the barely visible floating log, with indistinct signature
Has this signature been tampered with? Has some rascally rogue obliterated the name of J.Cook, and superimposed the Monamy moniker? If not, I would suggest that he could have produced this picture very shortly after August 1st 1714, and that ten years separate it and paintings A, B and C. Some time later Monamy would have gone on to paint the winning waterman in the Doggett's Coat and Badge Race. Little is certain, including the date of the Doggett's winner. The rows of rowers are, without doubt, extremely primitive in execution; the composition is haphazard; the perspective is arbitrary, but the painting, nevertheless, is not too bad in parts.