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Commodore Walker's Action: the Privateer 'Boscawen' Engaging a Fleet of French Ships, 23 May 1745

Fine art

Object connections:

Collection Fine art, Oil paintings
Gallery locationNot on display
PeopleDepiction: Walker, George
EventsWar of the Austrian Succession: 1740-1748
VesselsBoscawen (1744)

Object details:

Object ID BHC0362
Description Charles Brooking’s painting relates to the ‘Voyages and Cruises of Commodore Walker’, first published in 1760 by an unidentified author but possibly an autobiographical narrative of the adventures of the successful English privateer captain, George Walker (d. 1777). It includes his cruise commanding the privateer ‘Boscawen’ - a captured French frigate originally called the ‘Medée’ - and her encounter with this convoy of eight merchantmen bound from Martinique to France. The French ships also carried privateering 'letters of marque' and the engagement, in which the English privateer 'Sheerness' was also involved, took place in the eastern Atlantic north-west of Cape Finisterre. The scene, which was engraved by Boydell in 1753, shows the ‘Boscawen’ in the middle ground, slightly out of the central axis, which is accentuated by the high build-up of clouds in the sky. She is surrounded by the French ships, exchanging fire with them across calm waters, with the commodore (leading ship) of the enemy convoy , the 'Jeune Marie', sinking on the right. A brig and sloop escape on the left but all five of the other French ships were captured. The 'Sheerness' is probably the ship in port-bow view in the distance, immediately to the right of the 'Jeune Marie', since a total of ten vessels are included. All the French ones fly white (Bourbon) colours. ‘The Gentleman’s Magazine’ for 1745 (vol. 15, p. 302.) summarizes the results of the action as follows, in a more general list of prizes taken that year: ‘The ‘duke de Guyenne’, [captain] Le Bournier, 150 tons, 6 guns, 28 men; the ‘Belle Louise’, Bruile, 280 tons, 18 guns, 65 men; the ‘St Andrew’ [sic], Gautier, 200 tons, 14 guns, 40 men; the ‘Abraham’, 100 tons, 18 guns, 84 men; the ‘Victory’ [sic], Touloine, 250 tons, 14 guns, 64 men, brought by the ‘Boscawen’ priv.[ateer], capt. Walker, of Dartmouth, and the ‘Sheerness’ priv. capt. Furnell, into Bristol – These 5 ships were taken out of a fleet of eight, all bound from Martinico [Martinique]; in the engagement, the French commodore was sunk, and only the captain, 16 men, and one woman saved; a brig and a sloop escaped; the French had 103 men killed and wounded; the captors had a man killed and several wounded. These ships had all letters of marque, and were very rich, their lading consisting of 960 hogsheads of sugar, 300,000lb. of coffee, besides cocoa, elephants teeth, gold dust, &c. The ship sunk was called ‘La Jeune Maria’ [sic], 240 tons, 14 g.[uns], 64 m.[en].’ The composition’s low horizon is a legacy of the 17th-century Dutch tradition of seascape painting, which continued to influence British maritime art throughout the 18th century.
Date made circa 1750

Artist/Maker Brooking, Charles
Credit National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Caird Collection
Materials oil on canvas
Measurements Frame: 686 mm x 975 mm x 70 mm;Painting: 508 mm x 800 mm
  • Commodore Walker's Action: the Privateer 'Boscawen' Engaging a Fleet of French Ships, 23 May 1745 (BHC0362)
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