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Woodes Rogers and his Family

Fine art

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Object ID BHC2973
Description An early conversation piece by Hogarth showing the family of Woodes Rogers (circa 1679-1732), a famous Bristol seaman and later Governor of the Bahamas. Rogers is seated to the right facing left, wearing a jacket, breeches and a cloak draped over his right knee. He wears a full wig, buckled shoes and holds a pair of dividers in his right hand to signify his maritime associations. On his right stands a young man, probably his son, William, who holds a map of (New) Providence Island, in the Bahamas (the site of Nassau, the capital). On the left is a girl thought to be Rogers' daughter, Sarah, holding a book on her knee. The group is framed by trees on the right and a fortification wall on the left bearing a cartouche inscribed 'Dum Spiro, Spero, 1729' ('While I live, I hope'). In the background is a depiction of a ship being saluted as it enters harbour and it is possible that this portrait was produced to celebrate Rogers's return to Nassau in 1729, and was painted shortly before his departure. On the right a globe stands in the foreground, which completes the emblematic inclusion of ship, globe, dividers and map celebrating Rogers' achievements. Hogarth also permits real life to intrude in the form of the maidservant holding a plate of tropical fruit. She stands behind the silk-clad Sarah, dressed in imitation of her mistress by wearing a string of pearls and a bow in her cap. Hogarth as satirist hovers over the composition since the servant potentially subverts the formality of the grouping by introducing a spark of wit. The dog at Sarah's feet, also wearing a bow, supports this interpretation. Woodes Rogers lived in Queen's Square, Bristol, and in 1708, during the War of the Spanish Succession, he commanded a privateer squadron of two ships (the 'Duke' and 'Duchess') that sailed from Bristol to the South Seas via the Horn. In 1709 he called at Juan Fernandez where he refitted and discovered Alexander Selkirk, who had been marooned there for four years. Selkirk was the model for Defoe's Robinson Crusoe. He subsequently raided the coast of Peru, sacking Guayaquil and being seriously wounded twice before returning round the world to England in 1711. In 1712 he published an account of his voyage, which may be the book which his daughter is shown holding here. In 1717 he obtained a 22-year lease on the Bahamas and a commission as Governor. After three years of combating Caribbean piracy there he returned to England in 1721 but went back as captain-general and governor-in-chief in 1729. He died at Nassau in 1732. His son, William Whetstone Rogers, was one of the Council of the Bahamas and later one of the three chief merchants of the Royal Africa Company. The portrait, which has an unbroken provenance since Sarah Rogers inherited it from her father in 1732, is signed 'W. Hogarth' and is dated on the architectural cartouche.
Date made 1729

Artist/Maker Hogarth, William
Credit National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Caird Collection
Materials oil on canvas
Measurements Painting: 355 x 455 mm; Frame: 599 mm x 734 mm x 80 mm
  • Woodes Rogers and his Family (BHC2973)
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