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An English ship off Alexandria

Fine art

Object connections:

Collection Fine art, Oil paintings
Gallery locationNot on display

Object details:

Object ID BHC0986
Description A two-decker English warship is shown on the left, at anchor and airing her sails, outside the harbour of Alexandria, Egypt, which stretches across the background. A substantial merchant vessel, probably also British, crosses the warship's bows from left to right, with a salute being fired between them though it is not clear by which one. On the right, in broadside view, lies a two-masted lateen-rigged local craft, with sails furled and a crew of turbaned figures. Two are rowing or poling it in the calm conditions, the third is seated at the tiller. A four-armed grapnel anchor hangs inverted from the short bowsprit and a further small local rowing boat approaches from far right. Another version of this composition was sold in a British paintings sale at Christie’s, London, on 21 May 2008, lot 18, and a third as lot 215 in Sotheby's Old Master and British Paintings sale of 6 December 2012 (on canvas 70.5 x137 cm). The first of these, like BHC0986, is signed 'J. Cook', but the second, described as 'A Royal Navy two-decker entering the harbour at Alexandria', is signed lower right 'John Cook Fecit', and appears to be the only known work that supplies the artist's so-far missing first name. This one and BHC0986 are practically identical (an image of that sold at Christie's remains to be checked). The fully signed one was sold by a descendant of the reported first owner, Captain James Quallett (1718-79), said to be 'of the East India Company'. A family tradition (verbally reported only) identified the warship as his vessel, the 'Delaware', which if present would be the merchantman - though there is no other reason to believe it is a specific one in any of the versions. She would also be a Levant (or 'Turkey') Company ship in this location, with the warship one of those convoying Company trade to the eastern Mediterranean. According to the 'London and Country Journal' of 15 July 1740, the 'Delawar' (sic), destined for Cyprus and Iskenderun under 'Captain Jolly' (possibly a slip for Quallett) was in the Turkey Company convoy then waiting to leave Spithead, escorted by the 50-gun 'St Albans' (Captain Philip Vincent) and the 40-gun 'Lark' (Captain Lord George Graham). The ship presumably also made a number of similar Levant voyages in other years round that date. The two-decker warship shown by Cook in his versions is a vessel about the size of the 'St Albans' and the subject was presumably intended to appeal to those who knew the Levant trade. Whether he had sailed in it himself or was working from secondary topographical sources is unknown. [PvdM 10/12]
Date made circa 1730

Artist/Maker Cook, John
Credit National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Materials oil on canvas
Measurements Frame: 772 mm x 1460 mm x 45 mm;Painting: 635 mm x 1320 mm
  • An English ship off Alexandria (BHC0986)
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