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As they are sailing in beezy conditions these ships are probably off Spithead rather than in Portsmouth harbour as Finberg described them. He related this sketch to Turner’s Spithead: Boat’s Crew Recovering an Anchor (Tate N00481),1 for which see the Introduction to this sketchbook. The ships may include prizes from the Danish fleet, seized by the British at Copenhagen; also see Introduction for the historical background. There is a very slight continuation of this sketch, probably representing a single mast, on folio 28 verso (D40610).
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.60–1 no.80 (pl.90).