Display caption

Here the moon plays a key role in Turner's narrative. A party of English smugglers is shown receiving barrels of illegal gin from French sailors by moonlight. An operation routinely carried out under the cover of nightfall is exposed by a sunrise which has arrived too early for the miscreants. From the right approaches a boat of the Coast Blockade, initiated in 1816 to combat smuggling, which is spotted by the men who quickly try to 'sink' the barrels on ropes for later retrieval. Beyond their narrative significance, the twin light sources of moon and sun fuse the atmosphere of the painting into an ethereal whole.

September 2004