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HMS Erebus in the Ice, 1846 (Painting)

Fine art

Object connections:

Collection Fine art, Oil paintings
ExhibitionsNorth-West Passage
Gallery locationPolar Worlds Gallery (Floor plans)
VesselsErebus (1826)

Object details:

Object ID BHC3325
Description This oil painting by the Belgian marine artist François Etienne Musin (1820–1888) refers to HMS ‘Erebus’s’ Arctic venture under the command of Sir John Franklin in 1845. For Franklin’s last journey she had been fitted with a steam engine and a screw propeller and was accompanied by HMS ‘Terror’. In 1848 both vessels were abandoned in the ice. In this painting Musin shows the vessel surrounded by icebergs, but still in open water. A gloomy sky is only allowing some sunlight unto the scene, causing a stage-like effect in the composition. In the foreground the ship’s crew are busy moving smaller craft across the ice. [Although dramatic this picture raises some issues. First is whether it really is 'Erebus' given that the ship has no funnel for her auxiliary steam engine, or whether this is an identification that was supplied when Sir James Caird bought the painting in 1930 and has simply not been questioned since. Second, why is 'Terror' not included, and what is really going on given that the staffage is just that, engaged in desultory activity. The answer may be that the ship is perhaps one of the Franklin search vessels - since certainly naval - or that even if it is meant as 'Erebus' the painting is at least one of a pair, the other now missing, or of a larger interior decorative series, which was the type of work for which Musin was best known across Europe. [PvdM 4/09]
Date made 19th century

Artist/Maker Musin, Francois Etienne
Credit National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Caird Collection
Materials oil on canvas
Measurements ;Painting: 1145 mm x 1780 mm, Frame: 1511 mm x 2155 mm x 150 mm, Weight: 66.6 kg
  • HMS Erebus in the Ice, 1846 (Painting) (BHC3325)
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