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The Battle of La Hogue, 23 May 1692
|Description||(Updated, April 2018) A copy commissioned from Chambers by Edward Hawke Locker (at this time senior resident Commissioner of Greenwich Hospital) for the Naval Gallery in the Painted Hall, from the original by Benjamin West, then in the collection of the Marquess of Westminster. Uniquely, the Painted Hall catalogue (1922 edition) blandly says it was 'obtained' without saying who presented it. This is clarified by the Hospital Board minutes for 1835 which show that Vice-Admiral Benjamin Page persuaded the Board to part with eight paintings, of which seven were by Serres of Admiral Sir Edward Hughes's actions off India and bequeathed by him in 1794 (they retained an eighth, BHC0448), plus a half-length portrait of him by or after Reynolds, for presentation to the town hall at Ipswich - where both Page and Hughes had connections. In exchange Page agreed to supply a painting to the value of 100 guineas of 'one of the great Naval Victories' . Page originally offered or sent one of Trafalgar, which the Board rejected since they already had Turner's and 'intimations' from William IV, which never materialised, that he might present two more. Page eventually paid for this one instead but the transaction was somewhat fraught and the Board, minuting their regret that they had agreed to it, concluded that they had no power to alienate pictures or other items once accepted as Hospital property. Page is acknowledged in the minutes as donor of the picture but this never seems to have been stated publicly in the catalogue or (presumably) on the frame of the picture which was normally the case. The probable reason is that as a trade rather than a gift it was not considered proper to credit Page on a par with other donors. The painting arrived and was hung in the Gallery early in 1836. It is an interpretation of the extended action between the French fleet of the Comte de Tourville and the Anglo-Dutch fleet of Admiral Sir Edward Russell (later Earl of Orford), from 23 May through to 4 June 1692. This was during King William's War, in which the French were planning an invasion in support of the exiled James II following his replacement on the British throne by William of Orange (as William III) and his co-monarch and wife, James's daughter Mary, as Queen Mary II. It started as an open sea action off Cape Barfleur on the Cotentin peninsula of Normandy, with the French being scattered and then their ships being picked off as prizes or burnt off Cherbourg and in the Bay of la Hogue. One so-destroyed was Tourville's flagship, the 104-gun 'Soleil Royal', which was disabled off Cherbourg and set on fire there by an allied fireship. The 'Soleil Royal' appears to be the ship at centre background here between two other French vesels, with coastline behind. Both the ships in the foreground are also French, one burning on the left, the other in stern view to the right with a boat action in front. The emphasis is strongly on the Dutch part in the battle, the boat on the left flying Dutch colours and the figure standing in it possibly being intended to represent Philips van Almonde, the Dutch commander, or at least a Dutch rather than British officer. This is not surprising, since West's source for the composition was a much earlier Dutch engraving of their attack on British ships off Chatham in the celebrated Medway Raid of 1667, in which van Almonde was also involved as the junior commander sent into the river by De Ruyter, the commander-in-chief on that occasion.|
|Credit||National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Greenwich Hospital Collection|
|Materials||oil on canvas|
|Measurements||Painting: 1525 mm x 2145 mm; Frame: 1880 mm x 2580 mm x 150 mm|
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