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Sunday, November 30, 2014

Rodney Triumphant, or Admiral Lee - Shore in the Dumps, 1782


Rodney Triumphant, or Admiral Lee - Shore in the Dumps, James Gillray, 1782, Walpole Library.


Rodney Triumphant, or Admiral Lee - Shore in the Dumps, James Gillray, 1782, National Maritime Museum.


Rodney Triumphant, or Admiral Lee - Shore in the Dumps, James Gillray, 1782, National Maritime Museum.

Celebrating the Battle of the Saintes, our cartoonist has taken the opportunity to stick one to the French and to the politicians that he perceives as opposing the success of the Royal Navy. In one corner, a passel of Parliamentarians converse about their ill luck and their hopes to deprive Admiral Rodney of future victories. Most important to our interests is the portrayal of First Lord of the Admiralty Augustus Keppel. Keppel moved against Rodney almost as soon as he took office, only to find out about his victory at the Saintes almost immediately. It stained his remarkably short career as First Lord right from the start. It is almost certainly Keppel that Gillray condemns as "Admiral Lee - Shore."

Walpole Library
National Maritime Museum
National Maritime Museum

Admiral Rodney, standing on the French flag, accepts the sword of Comte de Grasse. It is a scene oft repeated by political cartoonists of the time. It is also a valuable scene for us, as it is wonderfully detailed! The tars wave their hats, shout "Huzza," and carry boxes of "Lewis d'or's." Just like yesterday's entry, these boxes signify the wealth that Britain bleeds from her enemies at sea.

Walpole Library
National Maritime Museum
National Maritime Museum

With a wide smile, a tar immediately to the right of Admiral Rodney watches with delight as de Grasse surrenders his sword. Our jack wears a round hat with narrow and slightly upturned brim, a striped neckcloth that is yellow in one coloration and white in the next, and single breasted blue jacket with narrow slit cuffs closed by a single button. It is difficult to tell if the artist intended slit pockets at the waist, as the line (framed between the grip and guard of de Grasse's sword) could be interpreted as a crease in his fabric or as a pocket.


His slops are surprisingly short, ending above the knee. We don't have any view of his breeches, but that doesn't mean they aren't there. His stockings are white, running to pointed toe shoes with oval buckles. 

Walpole Library
National Maritime Museum
National Maritime Museum

Somehow sporting an even wider smile than his mate, this tar is even better turned out. He wears a cap with narrow upturned brim (probably a knit cap, though I am not sure), a single blue breasted jacket with open slit cuffs, and a single breasted waistcoat with the top few buttons open and a cutaway at his waist. Just like his mate he wears petticoat with white stockings and pointed toe shoes, though these bear rectangular white metal buckles. His waistcoat is painted buff by one colorist, and left white by another. 


Just as the ships in the right background proudly fly English flags over French, so too does this launch. The coxswain at the stern is less concerned with steering than he is with celebrating. His round hat waves in the air, and he stands tall, giving us a view of his slops. The oarsmen wear what appear to be barge caps, but we can say nothing more significant about them. Our colorists take a different take with this detail: one leaves the men entirely without color, the other hastily painted blue jackets on the oarsmen and neglected the coxswain.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Gothamites in council, 1751


The Gothamites in council : humbly inscribed to the geese in disgrace sometime call'd the honest men of P-h, Frederick George Stephens, 1751, Walpole Library.


Stephens has etched a crowded political cartoon, the meaning of which is beyond me.  The presence of the Centurion, a legendary vessel commanded by the like of Anson and Keppel, accompanied by cheering tars pouring out of the "Agent for Prizes" suggests a recent victory.


Being as the boxes the tars carry are marked "Lima," we can reasonably conclude that they are carrying Spanish silver. This silver was captured years before the print was made, but was cast into Lima Coins. Such a reference would have been self-evident to an eighteenth century English viewer.


Behind the stacked Lima boxes on the left are a group of tars waving their round hats in triumph. They wear single breasted short jackets and slops that end right at the knee.


Tasked with hauling a large box of silver on their shoulders, these tarpawlins nonetheless look pleased with themselves. Like their cheering mates to the left, they wear single brasted jackets and slops, though the slops end well below the knee. Here we can see that the length is quite variable. Uniformity of cloth type and clothing was fairly common, but slops were more like aprons than proper trousers. Each was probably made by the sailors themselves, rather than a tailor. We can expect more variety out of slops than we could of jackets, breeches, and shirts.

The sailors' heargear is a bit more difficult to pin down. The fellow in the left foreground appears to be wearing a round hat with an upturned brim, but it could just as easily be interpreted as a cocked hat with narrow brim or a barge cap. The same could be said of the jack without the waistcoat in the right foreground: is that a barge cap, a knit cap, a round hat?


Strolling from the prize agent is another tar in slops. His jacket is somewhat hard to pin down: it could be double or single breasted. Certainly he wears a pair of slops and carries a stick, but his hat is similarly vague. We could say the same for the fellow standing in the doorway of the prize office.

Interestingly, behind the desk of the prize office appears to be a woman. Her posture, bared forearms, and unmistakable fichu all demonstrate this fact. Were women known to work in prize offices? I confess myself ignorant, but it is an interesting avenue to explore!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Yorick at Dover going to embark for Calais, 1775


Yorick at Dover, going to embark for Calais, S.H. Grimm, 1775, Walpole Library.

A load of passengers, some of whom are more rotund than others, board a vessel for a trip across the Channel. The passengers are a mixed lot: young and old, rich and poor. Today we're going to take a look at the sailors.


Two of them stand conversing at the rail near the foremast. Both wear slops and a single breasted short jacket. The sailor on the right wears his jacket tucked into the slops, while the other wears it without. Each has a neckcloth tucked into the jacket itself, but diverge on their headwear. The tar on the left has a cocked hat with the point worn forward, the other a knit cap or dutch cap. It could be interpreted as a round hat with very narrow brim, but it appears to curl up, so I should think it a different style.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

To the Suvivors, 1786


"To the Survivors and Relations of the Unfortunate Persons who Perished in the Halsewell...," P. Mercier, S.W. Forbes, and Rawlinson, 1786, National Maritime Museum.


The crew of the Halsewell try to clamber onto the cliffs and rocks of Dorset. Some have lost their jackets and shirts, adding to the suffering of the the survivors in a stormy early January.

There is a good deal of color among their slop clothes: blue, red, and yellow jackets; white, and blue trousers. The storm appears to have carried away all of their headwear, though.


The two men pictured here are often seen in depictions of the Halsewell disaster. They are John Rogers, third mate, and James Brimer, supernumerary fifth mate. While standing on the poop deck, they were overtaken by a strong wave, and took hold of a hen coop. This they rode ashore, but were horribly bruised when the flotsam struck the rocks.

They remained in the caves with the other survivors until nearby quarry workers arrived to rescue them. Mr. Brimer fell during the attempt and, in the words of Rogers, "was unfortunately dashed to pieces, in the presence of those who could only lament the deplorable fate of an amiable and worthy man, and skilful officer."

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

To the Directors, c.1786


"To the Directors of the Honourable East India Company this print representing the Loss of their Ships Halsewell...," Robert Dodd, 1786, National Maritime Museum.


Washed ashore by the unforgiving waves, the crew of the Halsewell do their best to clamber onto the rocks in search of shelter. Some have lost their jackets and shirts, though at least one is clearly dressed in a jacket and shirt without waistcoat. No slops are to be seen, but there are plenty of plain white trousers. Interestingly, they appear to be tightly fastened about the ankle. This could be the result of the soaking water causing it to cling to them, but I cannot be sure.

Another interesting aspect of their dress is the sailor at the far left of the frame, who appears to wear a headwrapping of some sort. Though popular among reenactors to wear a bandanna or other head wrapping, it is far from common in images of this period. It could be that the wrap is a bandage.

Tomorrow we'll wrap up Halsewell Week!


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Loss of the Halsewell, 1786


"The Loss of the Halsewell East Indaman, Capt. Richard Pierce," 1786, National Maritime Museum.

This is the first of several exterior views of the Halsewell during her brief time above the waves and against the cliffs.


A number of the crew have taken to the boats. The survivors are colorfully dressed, with a mix of brown, blue, and red. In the detail above, a sailor is dressed in a brown sleeved waistcoat with matching breeches and gray stockings. Behind him is a tar in blue breeches and jacket or waistcoat, and they are joined by a man in blue trousers and jacket.


The sailors clinging to the rocks give us a bit more detail. White trousers are clear on the figure at the top of the rock in the center, though most wear breeches and sleeved waistcoats or one sort or another.

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Halsewell East Indiaman, 1786


The Halsewell East Indiaman, Robert Pollard, Robert Smirke, and Francis Jukes, 1786, National Maritime Museum.

Captain Robert Pierce and the women gathered with him perished in the wreck of the Halsewell. According to accounts of the disaster, they were huddled in the cabin, not exposed on deck to be swept away. The artists chose to heighten the drama of their deaths by baring them to the sea.


Clinging to the shattered mizzen is the only sailor we can clearly see. He wears a cap of some sort, though it is not clearly visible. His single breasted jacket is open just a touch at the top, revealing a white lining. Mariner's cuffs are also open, showing his white shirt. Plain slops are rolled up well above his dark breeches. White stockings and pointed toe shoes with rectangular buckles finish off his slop clothes.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Society at Sea, 1786


Society at Sea, artist unknown, 1786, National Maritime Museum.

Captain Pierce and the passengers of the Halsewell enjoy music and companionship with good humor. Though no exact date is given to this piece, it must be in the weeks before the storms would batter the ship, leading to its eventual "dissolution." Few, if any, of the figures here would survive the wreck.


Two sailors are visible on the quarterdeck, but only just. Together they haul on a line, though its exact purpose is indeterminate. The sailor furthest aft wears a round hat with a flat crown and narrow brim. His jacket is close fitting, as is that of his mate. We can just make out a plain neckcloth on the other tar.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Halsewell Week

On January 6, 1786, Halsewell wrecked.

A Representation of the dreadfull situation of the Halsewell East Indiaman
British Museum

The Halsewell was a full rigged ship, nearly 140 feet in length. At nearly ten years old, she was a veteran merchant vessel with voyages ranging across the globe. But it was not on some distant shore that she met her end. Heavy storms in the English Channel gave her a beating. Her masts were torn from the ship, and she was pushed aground. Colliding with a tall cliff on the Dorset coast, the ship was battered between sea and shore until the vessel was shattered to pieces. Over 160 of her 240 passengers and crew died.

From Seadart Divers Assoc.

The wreck of the Halsewell had enormous power in the cultural mind of late eighteenth and early nineteenth century Britain. Poems were written and portraits printed to celebrate Captain Richard Pierce, master of the Halsewell. Music was composed to carry the drama of the wreck across Britain. Most importantly for the purposes of this blog, numerous artistic pieces were drawn, painted, and printed to commemorate the loss.

Such a cluster of images, all of which depicted the same ship and the same crew, sheds some light on what the appearance of sailors in a ship's company was thought to be by various artists throughout Britain. Over the next few days, we'll be examining several prints of the Halsewell tragedy.

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Black Admiral

Here's a warning to us all.


The image above is fascinating. The gold cuffs, brass cannon, red breeches, and a whole lot of other details make this image remarkable, but the real treasure was that it featured a black sailor. There are precious few primary source images of sailors of African descent, and certainly none of them are as well dressed and significant looking as this. For that reason this portrait is roundly referred to as the "Black Admiral." Identified as an unnamed sailor during the American Revolution, this portrait appears in countless websites, textbooks, and other sources.

It's a fraud.

In 2006 the "Black Admiral" was brought to Fraunces Tavern for an exhibition, where a painting restoration expert was brought in to clean it. His suspicions were raised at the mere sight of the portrait, and he quickly confirmed that it was a white naval officer who had been painted into a black sailor sometime in the mid-20th century.

This verified forgery is still being passed off as authentic on many websites and in many books. Always be cautious when judging the source of your images!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Punch's Opera with the Humours of Little Ben the Sailor, 1756


Punch's Opera with the Humours of Little Ben the Sailor, Edwards and Darly, 1756, Walpole Library.

Every one of these Figures are very striking, and be easily known to those who hae the least Penetration in Politicks.
Indeed they would be for the average person of eighteenth century Britain! Thankfully, the owner of this piece helpfully labeled it for future generations. So we know that the title character "Little Ben" is none other than the esteemed First Lord of the Admiralty George Anson. The artists have clearly taken a set against him, as he is depicted hanging with a lot of other undesirable politicians, all of whom bear marks of the French. Punch was a famous comic character in puppet shows of the century, and so are these hanging caricatures.


In his right hand is an oversized die, in the other a cup. The pockets of his slops, dotted with fleur de lis, spill with cards. His jacket is short, ending just below the waist, and its cuffs are open.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Butchers of Freedom, 1788


The Butchers of Freedom, H. Humphrey, 1788, Walpole Library.

Unfortunately, the catalog entry for this piece is incorrect:
An obese old lady, wearing a flowered dress, is shown seated at a card table. Her hair is piled high and topped by a cap ; a spider dangles behind her.
What we see instead is violent political repression. A cleaver wielding mob descends on their opponents, hacking them to bits. At the center right of the image, with his boot pressed into the corpse of a sailor, is George Hanger. His hat is bedecked with three feathers: the symbol of his buddy the Prince of Wales. Hanger is often depicted wearing green, the color of his uniform while serving with the Queen's Rangers in America. Though the image from the Walpole Library does not sow him in this distinctive color, another colored print in the Yale University Digital Collections does.


Luckily for us, the dead sailor is also wearing a variant outfit.


In both images the dead tar wears no hat, and his banner displaying pride in the Royal Navy is trampled by the butchers. His jacket is double breasted with cloth covered buttons and open mariner's cuffs. In the first his jacket is green, in the second it is red. A yellow striped neckcloth is displayed in both. Jack also wears a pair of trousers with broad vertical stripes: red stripes in one, blue stripes in the other.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Family Compact, 1778


Family Compact, artist unknown, 1778, Walpole Library.

Lampooning the alliance between the French and Spanish during the American Revolutionary War, the artist depicts caricatures of France and Spain bound unhappily together. They sit on the "Stool of Repentance" with sour looks, under the guard of the familiar metaphor for Britain on the world scene: Jack Tar.


He wears a reversed cocked hat trimmed with white tape and bearing a large cockade. At his neck is a striped neckcloth, tied well above the collar of his plain white shirt. Though he wears no waistcoat, this tarpawlin wears a typical short jacket without pockets, and bearing open mariner's cuffs with cloth covered buttons. His slops are plain, and end right at the knees, allowing us a peek at his breeches. White stockings fit into round toed shoes with rectangular buckles. Unsurprisingly, he holds a cudgel or walking stick.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Fill Up the Mighty Sparkling Bowl, 1752-1763



Fill up the mighty sparkling bowl, published by Carington Bowles, between 1752-1763, Yale Digital Collections.

Yale's Digital Collections states that this image is available on the excellent Lewis Walpole Library Digital Images website, but I was not able to track it down there.

This early Bowles' piece foreshadows his later and well known "Sailor's Pleasure." Just like that image, this print features a happy tar beside his bowl of punch. He fondles a filled glass and a very fine ladle. Below the image is a short poem detailing his delight:

Fill up the mighty sparkling Bowl,
That I a true and Loyal Soul -
May Drink & Sing without controul,
to Support my Pleasure.-
Thus may each Jolly Sailor live
When Fears and Dangers o'er -
For past Misfortunes never Grieve
When He's arriv'd on Shore.-
Let not future Cares perplex him,
Let him Laugh and let him Sing,
While he enjoys this Blessing,
He's as great as any King.-

He sure looks damnably pleased with himself! Our tarpaulin wears a black cocked hat without trim, point forward. On his right side is a single cloth covered button and loop. He wears his hair or wig curled, and it hangs down to the shoulder. At his collar is a fine white neckcloth.


His jacket is fairly typical at first glance, but a careful look inside the lapel reveals an unbuttoned waistcoat! There is unfortunately not enough detail on either the waistcoat or the jacket to make any assertions about whether or not they are lined. We can say that the jacket is without collar, and features rather nice mariner's cuffs. The cuff that we can see is clasped shut, save for the outermost buttons. I believe the buttons to be cloth covered, but am not confident enough to say for certain. Our sailor's shirt is a plain white garment.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Model of a flat bottomed landing craft, c.1756


Model of a flat bottomed landing craft, artist unknown, c.1756, National Army Museum.

This should look familiar. We have featured model boats just like this one in the past.


The oarsmen are relatively uniform, but not entirely so. A close look shows that while their caps and jackets are all a matching blue, and all wear their jackets with open cuffs. Likewise, they all wear matching white slops. Their stockings and waistcoat, however, are as varied as the men thesmelves. Stripes, spots, and solids abound, but all are in the three colors that are used in both the sailors' and the soldiers' clothing: blue, red, and white. Notably none of the sailors are wearing striped stockings.


At the bow, a single tar sits ready at the swivel. He wears a blue jacket with open cuffs and metal buttons. His cap matches those of the other sailors, and his waistcoat is a white one spotted with red.