H.M.S. Asia pen, ink and watercolour heightened with white 13.8 x 20.3cm (5 7/16 x 8in).
H.M.S. Asia, often known as 'the pride of the Bombay yard', was a modified version of the 84-gun two-decker Formidable whose lines had been taken from the captured French Canopus and skilfully adapted by Sir William Seppings. One of her most distinctive features was Seppings' innovative rounded stern and it is primarily this characteristic which helps to identify this vessel in many paintings. Asia, along with her sisters Bombay and Ganges, was built in Bombay and constructed of Indian teak for longevity. Measured at 2,279 tons and classed as a Second Rate, she was 196 feet in length with a 52 foot beam and mounted 84-guns, including a main armament of 32-32pdrs. on her gundeck. Ordered in 1819, her keel was laid in January 1822 and she was launched on 19th January 1824. Upon completion, she was sent to England and fitted out as flagship for Sir Edward Codrington, C. in C. Mediterranean, who took her out to join the fleet at Malta in 1826.
Under Captain Edward Curzon, her first taste of action was at Navarino in the autumn of 1827. All through the 1820s, Greece had been trying to throw off Turkish rule and, by 1827, the three great powers Britain, France and Russia had formed an alliance to further this aim. In an attempt to secure a peaceful solution, Codrington was sent to negotiate with the Turkish Navy whose main fleet was lying in Navarino Bay, on the Morean coast of Greece. On 20th October , he took his allied fleet into the bay in the hope of enforcing a truce merely by a show of strength but the plan had to be abandoned when Turkish ships opened fire and Codrington was forced to retaliate. A furious action then ensued which resulted not only in a Turkish defeat with extremely heavy losses but also the attainment of Greek independence.
Asia was subsequently flagship in the Mediterranean for two further commissions, took part in the operations off the Syrian coast in 1840 and was then flagship to Admiral Hornby in the South Pacific from 1847 52. After several years laid up at Portsmouth, she was made Guardship there in 1859 and survived until finally broken up in 1908.
This work was also used as the basis for one of Ward's lithographs although in it, the artist incorporated a number of anchored warships into the background.
This watercolour shows the starboard side of the 2nd rate, H.M.S. Asia and can be related directly to Ward's lithograph series. The following two lots almost certainly relate to it as well, and represent subjects that were either rejected or never carried to a conclusion. The interesting aspect is that, although there is still the nautical detail we expect of Ward, they show a freer execution than other watercolours seen by him. They probably represent initial studies, when a more painterly approach was possible than in the final stages of preparing the image for the stone, which calls for precision and constraint.
We are grateful to Mr. Arthur Credland for his assistance in cataloguing this lot.
For further information on John Ward's Marine Manual, see Gordon Bell and Arthur Credland, Victorian Ships, (Pickering, 2010).