The 'Brunswick' and the 'Vengeur du Peuple' | Nicholas Pocock | 1795
An incident from the five-day battle known as the 'Glorious First of June 1794', during the French Revolutionary War, 1793-1802, between the British fleet under Lord Howe and the French fleet under Rear-Admiral Villaret-Joyeuse.
This was the first great fleet battle of the French Wars of 1793-1815. It took place in the Atlantic, four hundred miles west of Ushant, when the French were attempting to intercept and escort home a valuable grain fleet from America and the British were also attempting to prevent this by capturing as much as possible. The consequent French manoeuvres allowed the British three days to position their fleet for the main attack. Although Villaret-Joyeuse helped ensured the safe passage of the French grain convoy (which neither fleet sighted) by drawing off Howe, he also had to try and minimize damage to his warships.
On the fourth day Howe caught up with the French and in the ensuing battle, six of their ships of the line were captured and one sunk. When the British 'Brunswick', 74 guns, fell foul of the French 'Vengeur du Peuple', 74 guns, her gunners alternately fired up through her decks and down below the waterline. The 'Vengeur du Peuple' eventually sank, an unusual occurrence for a wooden man-of-war as a result of enemy action.
The painting shows the 'Vengeur du Peuple' on the right, almost stern-on and flying the French flag, in action with the Brunswick to port in starboard-quarter view and flying the red ensign. The 'Brunswick' is also in action, on her port side, with the 'Achille', 74 guns, shown stern-on and losing all her masts. The holes in the sails of the ships demonstrate the ferocity of the battle. In the left background, two more ships are in action while the right background is obscured by smoke. This effect was witnessed by the artist from the frigate 'Pegasus', 28 guns, who filled a notebook with sketches and notes describing the course of the battle. He wrote 'the action continued very violent till near one o'clock and the ships dismasted seem'd to emerge from the smoke in such a manner that we could not see even who they had engaged last'. He placed considerable importance on accuracy, and referred to his annotated drawings and sketch plans in the production of his oil paintings.
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A1 = 33.1 x 23.4 Inches
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