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Mortella Tower. Corsica (elevation). First illustration in Plan of Mortella Tower, St Fiorenzo Bay. Corsica, 1794

Prints, drawings and watercolours

Object connections:

Collection Prints, drawings and watercolours, Fine art
Gallery locationNot on display

Object details:

Object ID PAD1621
Description Bound with PAD1622-PAD1623 which are related details of the tower on Mortella Point, on the western side of the Gulf of San Fiorenzo. This was taken on 10 February 1794 after British naval and army bombardment from sea and land during the capture of Corsica, in order to secure the important anchorage which it covered. Initially - garrisoned by a small French force under a determined army ensign called Thomas Le Tellier - it beat off two British 74-gun ships ('Juno' and 'Fortitude') sent to secure the anchorage as a preliminary to British invasion of the island, by firing red-hot shot from the large gun on its roof. This started a fire in 'Fortitude', which also had six men killed. The British later took if from the landward and recorded its characteristics before blowing it up (though part survives) when they abandoned the island two years later. It was subsequently the inspiration for the 'Martello Towers' built as coastal defences in Southern England, Ireland and elsewhere from c. 1805. The artist 'CFD' has not been identified but is probably one of the officers of the attacking force under General David Dundas. The English corruption of the Italian 'mortella' (myrtle) to 'martello' occurs in both related naval logs and correspondence (mainly as 'Martello Bay') from the very beginning and is the source of the name by which the later towers were known. That 'martello' means 'hammer' in Italian is just coincidence, as is the much earlier existence of Italian 'torre di martelloio' (watchtowers with warning bells). The name was first enshrined in the title of the single print made by James Fittler from this drawing, PAD1622 and PAD1623: all three of these sketches came into the possession of John MacArthur - the secretary to Admiral Lord Hood in the Mediterranean - shortly after its capture, who was instrumental in the print's production. For a copy of the print see PAD1624. For the original construction model of the subsequent British towers, see MDL0010. [PvdM: amended 5/12]
Date made Probably circa 1794

Artist/Maker D., C. F.
Credit National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Materials ink and watercolour
Measurements Sheet: 371 mm x 243 mm
  • Mortella Tower. Corsica (elevation). First illustration in Plan of Mortella Tower, St Fiorenzo Bay. Corsica, 1794 (PAD1621)
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