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Strachan's Action after Trafalgar, 4 November 1805: Bringing Home the Prizes

Oil paintings

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Object ID BHC0574
Description One of a pair of paintings showing an incident from the Napoleonic Wars 1803-15. After their defeat at Trafalgar in 1805, the remnants of the Franco-Spanish fleet dispersed and sought safety to seaward. Off Cape Ortegal, north-west Spain, was a squadron of British ships under the command of Sir Richard Strachan. His brief was to apprehend Captain Allemand's Franco-Spanish Rochefort squadron and when a group of enemy ships were sighted he initially assumed that they were Allemand's. In fact they were commanded by Rear-Admiral Dumanoir-Le-Pelley who was trying to reach safety with his four ships of the line; the 'Formidable', 80 guns, 'Mont Blanc', 74 guns, 'Scipion', 74 guns and 'Duguay-Trouin', 74 guns. An action ensued in which all four French ships were taken. The painting shows the four ships represented as prizes being carried home to Plymouth. The 'Caesar', 80 guns, is shown in broadside and bow view, flying the red ensign from the stern. The holes in her sails testify to the action and she has the captured French ship 'Formidable', 80 guns, in tow. Pendennis Castle, Falmouth, is visible in the background to the right together with the coastline of Cornwall. Other British ships involved in the action are also towing their captured ships along the English Channel. In the foreground a small boat flying the white ensign is laden with people watching the scene. Several of the men wave their hats to salute the vessels as they sail past and serve to underscore that this has been a British victory. The captured French ships were all added to the Royal Navy, with the 'Formidable', becoming the 'Brave', and the 'Duguay-Trouin', the 'Implacable'. Strachan's action gave the final blow to Napoleon's invasion plans. He was promoted to Rear-Admiral on 9 November 1805 and each of the captains involved in the action was presented with a gold medal. The artist was the second son of J. N. Sartorius (1759-1828) and belonged to an illustrious family of painters working in England, though originally from Germany. They were particularly adept at developing and maintaining a lucrative network of patronage. Francis and his brother C. J. Sartorius (active, 1810-21) became marine artists and exhibited a total of seventeen works at the Royal Academy between 1799 and 1821. Francis's paintings are often reminiscent of the work of Dominic Serres.
Date made circa 1807

Artist/Maker Younger, Francis Sartorius the
Credit National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Caird Collection
Materials oil on canvas
Measurements Frame: 680 mm x 910 mm x 90 mm;Painting: 546 mm x 762 mm
  • Strachan's Action after Trafalgar, 4 November 1805: Bringing Home the Prizes (BHC0574)
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