Peter Monamy

Ships in Distress in a Storm

c.1720–30

On display at Tate Britain

Artist
Peter Monamy 1681–1749
Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 765 x 1064 mm
frame: 970 x 1260 x 110 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Purchased 1965
Reference
T00807

Display caption

Peter Monamy was born in London, though his family were originally from the Channel Island of Guernsey and probably of Huguenot (French Protestant) ancestry. He was the first English-born marine painter of note, the genre having been brought to Britain by Dutch artists in the late 17th century. This scene of a storm at sea follows the Dutch tradition of such pictures. Although disaster seems inevitable, the clearing blue sky offers hope. It does not necessarily relate to an actual event, though for contemporary viewers it may have brought to mind the ‘Great Storm’ of 1703 which wrecked many ships at sea.

Gallery label, February 2016

Catalogue entry

T00807 Ships in Distress in a Storm c. 1720–30

Oil on canvas 756×1065 (30 1/8×41 7/8)
Inscribed ‘P:Monamy:pinx[?it]:’ on spar lower left
Purchased (Grant-in-Aid) 1965
PROVENANCE ...; D. Honeysett c.1945, anon. sale Christie's 19 November 1965 (56) bt Butlin for the Tate Gallery

Both ships in the foreground appear to be naval, and are two-deckers with forty to fifty guns each; they date from the end of the seventeenth century, and have the round gun ports which were abolished in 1700. A third ship on the horizon may be of the same size and age. It is unlikely that Monamy was depicting a particular occasion or that the rocky headland on the right is a specific place. The subject may have been inspired by the great gale of 1703 or the occasion in 1707 when Sir Cloudisley Shovell's fleet was in distress on the Scillies; though Charles Harrison-Wallace considers that stylistically this work dates from after 1720. (The compilers are grateful for the help of Mr Roger Quarm, National Maritime Museum, and Mr Charles Harrison-Wallace over this entry.)


Published in:
Elizabeth Einberg and Judy Egerton, The Age of Hogarth: British Painters Born 1675-1709, Tate Gallery Collections, II, London 1988

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