The three-masted English merchantman Integrity in two positions in the Saint Lawrence River arriving at Montreal signed 'T Luny' (lower left) oil on canvas 70 x 121.5cm (27 9/16 x 47 13/16in).
In this extremely rare and early representation of Montreal in oil, Luny has taken his inspiration from Thomas Patten, a British officer in General Amherst's expeditionary force which captured the city in September 1760. Presumably quite soon after the British occupation, Patten painted a view of Montreal from the east, a charming watercolour subsequently engraved by P. Carnot and published in London in November 1762 as part of a large work entitled Scenographia Americana. This 'very rare' 1762 engraving is now 'considered to be the first print of Montreal after its capture in 1760' (G. Spendlove, The Face of Early Canada, 1958, p. 13 refers) and is mirrored in Luny's oil in so many respects that it is hard not to assume that much of the background detail was simply taken off the earlier print. In his primary watercolour, Patten's military draughtsman's eye had shown the waterfront, the fortifications and, above all, the sizeable number of fine and substantial buildings which indicated a burgeoning city, all of which were transferred first onto Carnot's engraving and thence into the backdrop to Luny's oil portrait of the London merchantman Integrity for whose owner or master the painting was undoubtedly intended.
Although a number of ships named Integrity are recorded in the final quarter of the 18th century, the most likely contender for this portrait is the 280-ton vessel built at Whitby in 1780, owned by a Mr. Breckwood and commanded by Captain Gibson. She began her career trading to Saint Petersburg but soon transferred into the 'Canada Trade' and was still thus employed until at least 1800. It has been suggested that the large hatches in her hull, forward of her fore and mizzen masts, indicate she was designed to carry timber but this has not so far been confirmed. Notwithstanding her cargo, however, any painting which incorporates a named merchant vessel in British North America and which can be dated prior to 1830 or thereabouts is deemed extremely rare; in this case, even though Luny's painting is undated, it must undoubtedly pre-date 1801 since Integrity is clearly flying the 'Red Ensign' in use prior to the Act of Union with Ireland that year, but which was withdrawn and redesigned immediately afterwards so as to include the additional red cross of Saint Patrick. Thus, the fact that this painting contains a named ship depicted in the Saint Lawrence River in front of what must be one of the earliest depictions in oil of the city of Montreal and one which is effectively 'of the eighteenth century' - makes this hitherto unknown painting of considerable historic significance.
The land which became known as Canada was discovered by John Cabot, a Venetian in the employ of Henry VII (of England), on 24 June 1497, a mere five years after Christopher Columbus's first landfalls in the West Indies. In 1524, Francis I (of France) sponsored an expedition to discover a passage into the Pacific for French interests which, whilst unsuccessful in its aim, nevertheless founded the first European settlement on the North American continent and christened it 'New France'. Eleven years later, in 1535, a Breton mariner named Jacques Cartier sailed up the Saint Lawrence River as far as the Mont Réal but was turned back by the Lachine rapids, an experience repeated in 1642 when the very same hazard also prevented Paul Chomedey de Maisonneuve from sailing any further westwards. Unlike his predecessor Cartier, however, Maisonneuve decided that the sheltered island lying in the river below the rapids at the confluence with the Ottawa River would make an ideal site for a settlement and thus the city of Montreal took root under its original name of Ville-Marie de Montréal.
It was initially little more than a mission station and its early years were hampered by continual attacks from the hostile native Iroquois people and its population grew painfully slowly. In 1710, however, by which date the town's significance as a vital trading post for the interior had been recognised, the population had risen to almost 3,500 souls and was protected by elaborate stone fortifications. By 1750, the population had reached 8,244 and even though the town still occupied a relatively small area, it proved a great magnet to British forces in the Seven Years' War (1756-63), falling to General Amherst on 8 September 1760. Thereafter a British possession - apart from a brief American occupation between November 1775 and June 1776 - until Canada achieved Dominion status in 1867, Montreal now ranks amongst the great cities of North America.
Certainly in the 18th century, the two commodities which made Canada such a vital asset to her European rulers first France, and then England were furs and timber, both of which provided the impetus for the so-called 'Canada Trade'. With the Saint Lawrence River as the obvious natural gateway to the rich hinterland, Montreal's importance began to grow and although the trading route was already in common use when Canada was under French rule, its rise to commercial prominence accelerated hugely once the Seven Years' War came to an end. By 1760, in fact, the fur trade had expanded to such an extent that wooden docks lined the shore where before had been only muddy river banks.