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The East Indiaman 'Warley'

Oil paintings

Object connections:

Collection Oil paintings, Fine art, Maritime Art Greenwich
Gallery locationNot on display
PeopleProvenance: Campbell, Henry Wilson
VesselsWarley (1788)

Object details:

Object ID BHC3707
Description The 1475-ton East Indiaman 'Warley', one of the larger and more famous vessels of the East India Company, shown in three positions off Blackwall, on the Thames, at sunset. The ship is shown in port-broadside view in the foreground, in stern view to the left (with her name visible on her transom) and in starboard-bow view on the far left, with other merchant shipping, and with John Perry's Brunswick Dock at Blackwall (from 1806 the East India Export Dock) visible on the far side of the river. The 'Warley', built by Perry's yard at Blackwall in 1795, was the second vessel of the name that he built for the same owner. The tall building to the left of centre is the Blackwall mast house, with its gibbet for lowering the masts into ships in the dock clearly visible. Behind the stern view of the 'Warley', a ship is being built on the stocks at Perry's yard which later passed into control of the Green family (George Green being Perry's son-in-law) and remained famous for building Indiamen until the end of the age of sail. In the left foreground, two river boatmen stand on the southern bank of the Thames next to a small river craft, looking towards the 'Warley'. The man wearing red breeches holds a boathook and shields his eyes against the setting sun. In the foreground to the right a barge flying the City of London flag is rowing out towards the ship, which made nine voyages to the East, most direct to China, between 1796 and 1816 when she was sold for breaking up. Early in 1804 she was returning from Canton with a fleet of other British East Indiamen, all carrying valuable goods, under Commodore Nathaniel Dance. Off Pulo Aor in the Straits of Malacca they encountered a French squadron under Rear-Admiral the Comte de Linois, hoping to seize their cargo. Dance ordered his fleet to form a line of battle, bluffing that his Indiamen were a fighting squadron, and a skirmish ensued in which Linois was driven off. Dance was subsequently knighted: 'Warley', commanded by Captain Henry Wilson, played a significant part, which may have prompted Wilson to commission this picture on his return (see below). Wilson was also awarded a presentation sword for his part in the action (see WPN1042). The painting demonstrates technical accuracy and careful delineation which have been informed by the artist's personal experience and intimate knowledge of the sea. This has led to the assumption that Salmon probably supplemented his income as an artist by working in shipping or related industry. He was born in Whitehaven, Cumberland, where his family probably worked as mariners. He moved to London in the late 1790s and then to Liverpool in 1806. In 1828 he left England for Boston, Massachusetts, where he became a successful painter of marine views ranging from small panels and canvases to theatrical moving panorama scenes. He returned to Europe about 1840 and died between 1848 and 1851, though where is uncertain. The painting is signed 'R.S. 1804' lower right and was presumably painted for, or acquired by, Captain Henry Wilson who commanded the 'Warley' until 1806, since it passed down in his family. It has an unusual pink tone, which is probably partly due to fading of the blue pigment used.
Date made 1804

Artist/Maker Salmon, Robert
Credit National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London. Caird Fund.
Materials oil on canvas
Measurements Painting: 915 x 1442 mm; Frame: mm
  • The East Indiaman 'Warley' (BHC3707)
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