Thomas Luny (British, 1759-1837) A First Rater, believed to be Nelson's flagship H.M.S. 'Victory' at anchor in Tor Bay, saluting the arrival of the frigate H.M.S. 'Anson' 55.3 x 86.4cm. (21 3/4 x 34in.)
Lot 131*
Thomas Luny
(British, 1759-1837)
A First Rater, believed to be Nelson's flagship H.M.S. 'Victory' at anchor in Tor Bay, saluting the arrival of the frigate H.M.S. 'Anson' 55.3 x 86.4cm. (21 3/4 x 34in.)
Sold for £ 33,460 (US$ 44,540) inc. premium

The Marine Sale

14 Sep 2004, 18:00 BST

London, New Bond Street

Lot Details
Thomas Luny (British, 1759-1837)
A First Rater, believed to be Nelson's flagship H.M.S. 'Victory' at anchor in Tor Bay, saluting the arrival of the frigate H.M.S. 'Anson'
signed 'Luny' and dated 1807 (lower left)
oil on canvas
55.3 x 86.4cm. (21 3/4 x 34in.)


  • Provenance :- The Parker Gallery

    H.M.S. “Victory”, the oldest warship in the world still in commission, is undoubtedly the most famous vessel in the long history of the Royal Navy; what is often forgotten however, is that when she found her immortality at Trafalgar in 1805, she was forty years old and had already had a more illustrious career than most of the other first rates in the fleet at that time.

    Designed by Surveyor Slade, “Victory’s” keel was laid in Chatham Dockyard on 2nd July 1759 and she was launched on 7th May 1765. The classic 100-gun ship, she was measured at 2,162 tons and was 186 feet in length with a 52 foot beam. Despite her size, she soon achieved a reputation for sailing as fast as a more sprightly two-decker and this quality, along with her well-seasoned frame thanks to fully six years on the stocks, helps to explain her long sea-going career and her frequent employment as a flagship. Widely regarded as the finest ship in the fleet, it was hardly surprising that Nelson should have chosen her to carry his flag in the long hunt for the Franco-Spanish battlefleet which he finally brought to action off Cape Trafalgar on 21st October 1805. As flagship however, she proved a prime target for the enemy gunners and even though she emerged victorious from the battle, she was severely damaged and could only limp into Gibraltar for temporary repairs with the greatest difficulty. Finally back in Portsmouth, with Nelson’s body still aboard, on 5th December, she slowly made her way to Chatham where she stayed for almost two years whilst she was thoroughly repaired and, to an extent, rebuilt so as to reflect recent developments in design. Eventually returning to sea late in 1807, she remained in service until 1824 when she became flagship to the C. in C. at Portsmouth, and was given a permanent mooring within the harbour until dry-docked for restoration in 1922.

    H.M.S. “Anson” was launched at Plymouth on 4th September 1781, almost eight years after her keel had been laid, and began her career as a two-decker mounting 64 guns. Designed by Surveyor Williams, she was measured at 1,369 tons and was 159½ feet in length with a 44½ foot beam. Commissioned in December 1781, when the American War of Independence was in full spate, she was first sent to the West Indies where she took part in Rodney’s decisive victory over the French fleet at the battle of the Saintes on 12th April 1782. Laid up during the peace which followed, she was converted to a frigate in 1794 with the result that she lost her upperdeck and her armament was reduced to 38 guns. Once cut down to a more flexible fighting unit, she was continually in action during the next seven years, either off Ireland or in the English Channel. Back in the Caribbean by the summer of 1806, she returned home towards the end of 1807 and, after a short spell at Falmouth, sailed for Brest on Christmas Eve. Running into bad weather almost immediately, her captain decided to return to port on 28th December but “Anson” was driven ashore, near Helston, early the following morning. Pounded by tremendous seas, there was nothing left of her by 3.00pm. on the 29th and 60 men, including Captain Lydiard, lost their lives.

    Whilst the date of this work is slightly at variance with the recorded history of each of these two vessels, the possible explanation is that the painting was commissioned by an officer who had served in both ships and wanted Luny to portray them together as a lasting memento. Thus, there is no reason to doubt their traditional identification even though it is unlikely, in fact, that the two warships were ever in company in Tor Bay. Moreover, the location was clearly one which suited the artist and whilst the essence of the composition is purely commemorative rather than factual, it remains a highly effective portrayal of two contemporary vessels.
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