Oil paintings, Fine art, Maritime Art Greenwich

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Captain Lord George Graham, 1715-47, in his Cabin

BHC2720
Oil paintings

Object connections:

Collection Oil paintings, Fine art, Maritime Art Greenwich
ExhibitionsArt for the Nation, Caird Collection, Nelson, Navy, Nation
Gallery locationNot on display
PeopleProvenance: Montrose, Earl of
undefined: Caird Collection
Depiction: Graham, Lord George
Publication(s)The National Maritime Museum - The Collections
Fletcher
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Treasures of the National Maritime Museum
Gloria Clifton and Nigel Rigby
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Object details:

Object ID BHC2720
Description A conversation piece thought to be set in the captain's cabin of the 'Nottingham', 60 guns, and probably commissioned by the sitter, who was youngest son of the first Duke of Montrose, to celebrate his action off Ostend in June 1745. While commanding the frigate 'Bridgwater', 24 guns, Graham had attacked a squadron of French privateers, capturing valuable prizes. His reward was the command of the larger 'Nottingham'. On the right is a full-length portrait of Graham seated slightly to the left at a covered circular table, facing forward and glancing sideways, with a place-setting for dinner in front of him. Holding a long pipe in his right hand, his left rests on his cape and hip. Dressed in grey, he wears a gold-brocade waistcoat, a fur-lined red velvet cape round his shoulders, a velvet cap askew, breeches and slippers. Seated on the left in front of the table, with a place-setting under his left elbow, is a plainly attired man with his legs crossed, wearing a black coat, white collar and buckled shoes. His dress implies he is socially inferior to Graham but an educated man - perhaps a secretary or tutor - and it may be symbolic of this social difference that a salt-cellar lies on the table between them. He looks up out of the picture to the right and holds a ledger, with a nearly full famille-rose punch bowl and a dog at his feet. To his left, behind, dressed in white and standing under a hanging crown compass, a steward or cook holds a plate of roast fowl. The sails of another ship can be seen through the cabin's stern windows beyond. A black servant boy stands on the far right behind Graham, playing a pipe and tabor. Behind the table a standing man, presumably a singer, holds a sheet of music which may bear the title 'Farewell my Judy' and affirms that music unites the group. On the left, Graham's dog apparently joins the singing. On the right a pug sits upright on a chair, wearing Graham's wig and holding a scroll. He represents Hogarth's dog, Trump, and thus the artist has placed himself in the portrait. His tongue lolls as he looks beyond the paper propped on a glass in front of him. The inclusion of servants and dogs invites a satirical commentary on Captain Graham and his circle. Lord George and the boy both have pipes and the boy's attire mimics his master's. Similarly Trump's senatorial pose, in Graham's wig, apes the formality of his official position (though at this period musical conductors used a roll of paper rather than a baton and this reference may be musical as well). Only the steward on the left directly confronts the viewer with his gaze. His smile invites the spectator into the picture, while he seems unaware that he is tipping gravy down the back of the seated man in front of him. Hogarth has thus introduced elements of humour into the portrait, which also implies political allusions. Cabin scenes of any sort are rare in oil painting and this is the most famous example in British art. Whether the setting was Graham's or Hogarth's idea is unknown but in either case it may have been inspired by Bartolommeo Nazari's similar painting of Lord Boyne and his friends in the cabin of the ship taking them to Lisbon from Venice in 1732. Boyne was certainly known to Hogarth (who painted his portrait) and Nazari's picture prompted an unusual number of contemporary copies, of which the Museum has an example (BHC2567). Hogarth's painting, which has long been a source of speculation as to its full meaning and the identity of Graham's 'secretary' and singing companion, was purchased from the Duke of Montrose in 1932 by Sir James Caird, the Museum's founding benefactor.
Date made 1742-44

Artist/Maker Hogarth, William
Credit National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Caird Collection
Materials oil on canvas
Measurements Painting: 685 mm x 889 mm; Frame: 895 x 1085 x 85 mm Weight: 18.4 kg
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