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Friday, February 14, 2014

The Press Gang, c.1760


The Press Gang, John Collet, c.1760's, from The Foundling Museum.

I was directed to this image by The 18th Century Material Cultural Resource Center. Among the many, many primary source examples of everything from tobacco culture to shoes to tents is a great slideshow of Royal Navy material culture.

Unfortunately, the Foundling Museum does not have a date for this piece. The 18th Century Material Culture Resource center gives this an approximate dating of c.1760's. Based on the clothing worn by men and women throughout this painting, I would agree with that approximation.

As with many tavern scenes of the time, this is a chaotic piece with a lot going on. There's a lot of sailors here, so I'm going to do my best to keep up, but let me know if you can find a higher resolution or brighter copy of this painting! I'll be erring on the side of caution and avoiding examinations of figures that are not definitely sailors. We wouldn't want to muddle our findings by adding in other professions.

Starting at the far left is a tar sharing a secret word with a woman. He wears the familiar reversed cocked hat. The tar's jacket is fairly long, ending at perhaps the middle of the thigh, and appears to be a dark blue with slash cuffs. His neckcloth and waistcoat are both red, and his white slops end just below the knee. Gray stockings lead to round toe shoes, but the quality of this copy does not allow us to see the buckles.

In the right of the frame, a pair of sailors drag a poor chap before woman on her knee, pleading for his release. The jack on the left is wearing a reversed cocked hat, red neckcloth, blue short jacket, slops, and gray stockings. His mate on the right is wearing precisely the same slop clothes, though it appears he wears his cocked hat with the point forward.

In the foreground at the right is a sailor lounging on a bench and lifting a lidded tankard. His cocked hat is turned with the point forward, and he wears a red jacket. The slops hang a bit long, but we can still see the gray stockings about his legs.

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