Charles Brooking (British, 1723-1759) The taking of the French merchantmen 'Marquese d' Antin' and 'Louis Erasme' by the English privateers 'Prince Frederick' and 'Duke', 10th. July, 1745 37.2 x 61cm. (14 5/8 x 24in.)
The taking of the French merchantmen 'Marquese d' Antin' and 'Louis Erasme' by the English privateers 'Prince Frederick' and 'Duke', 10th. July, 1745 oil on canvas 37.2 x 61cm. (14 5/8 x 24in.)
Provenance :- R. Colin Smith, Esq., Warminster, 1946, who gifted the picture to the present owner.
Exhibited :- Mellon Foundation, Charles Brooking exhibition, Bristol Art Gallery, 1st-30th. July, 1966, catalogue no. 41.
Engraved :- A line engraving of this picture measuring 11 1/4 x 17 3/4in. by Simon Francis Ravenet was published by John Boydell in 1753. It was also published by Jas. Whittle and R.H. Laurie in 1818.
In 1753 John Boydell published the first of a series of engravings relating to the adventures of the 'Royal Family' Privateers (so-called because each vessel bore the name of a member of the Royal Family), as he realised that there would be popular demand for prints of the exploits of these vessels.
The preliminary drawing for Ravenet's engraving once belonged to President John F. Kennedy and hung in the White House, Washington D.C. from 1961-1964. On his death, he bequeathed the drawing to the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, in memory of his elder brother, Joseph, who was killed in action during World War II.
The companion picture to this lot, showing the end of the engagement - with one Frenchman captured and the other in desperate straits - is in the Paul Mellon Collection, Yale Centre for British Art, U.S.A.
See 'Charles Brooking', David Joel, Antique Collectors' Club, Woodbridge, 2000, pp. 44-45, no. 357, illustrated in colour, page 45. David Joel notes:- 'It is very rare, there being only 10 oils of battles of which 5 are in museums'.
The so-called War of Jenkins Ear, which began in 1739 as a simple conflict between England and Spain, soon developed into a far wider European struggle known as the War of the Austrian Succession. Once hostilities were extended, the old rivalry between England and France quickly began to dominate matters and even though most of the campaigning was land-based, there was still ample scope for action at sea where a particular squadron of English privateers attracted not only the nations attention but also a huge profit for its backers.
Commanded by Captain James Talbot, the little fleet consisted of three armed ships, the 500-ton 30-gun flagship Prince Frederick, the 300-ton 20-gun Duke (Captain Morecock) and the much smaller Prince George although the latter capsized and sank five days out with the loss of all but twenty of her crew. The flotilla left Cowes on 2nd June 1745 and on 10th July, whilst cruising the North Atlantic between the Azores and the Newfoundland Banks, sighted three unidentified vessels which immediately turned away. Chased and challenged by Talbot, the mystery ships ran up French colours, formed into a ragged line for protection and prepared to defend themselves. Talbots own account of the affair was subsequently published in the Gentlemans Magazine, 1745 (pp. 418-19 & 428-29) where he described it as a sanguinary fight in which we entertained each other for three hours at warm work. Sanguinary or not, it was a long and hard-fought contest, evenly matched and only concluded after two of the Frenchmen had suffered terrible pounding from superior English gunnery. The third enemy ship, Nostre Dame de Liberance, managed to escape westwards but Marquese dAntin and Louis Erasme were left dismasted and helpless. Faced with no alternative but to surrender, they struck their colours and submitted to the humiliation of being boarded by their captors who, once they ventured below, could not believe their luck.
The French ships had been en route to St. Malo from Lima laden with treasure, so much of it that Talbot took the extraordinary decision to tow both prizes home rather then overload his own vessels which themselves had suffered some damage in the fight. The journey back took three weeks and called for superb seamanship, but the four ships arrived safely at Bristol on 8th September where the treasure was unloaded and assessed. In all, there were 1,093 chests of silver bullion which, together with large quantities of gold and silver plate and other valuables, filled 45 wagons. Each cart was decorated with streamers and, guarded by armed sailors on horseback, the convoy set out for London as soon as it could be assembled. Arriving at the Tower, the cargo was valued at £700,000 (some estimates put it as high as £1 million) which the owners promptly loaned to the Government to finance the operations to put down the Jacobite Rebellion, and when the proceeds were divided even the most humble sailor each received £850. Talbot himself, now an extremely rich man, retired to join the merchants syndicate which funded the celebrated privateer squadron which succeeded his own, and which came to be known as the Royal Family.
We would like to thank David Joel for his help in cataloguing this lot.