H.M.S. Illustrious heading out of Table Bay in choppy conditions and a stiff breeze oil on canvas 47 x 63cm (18 1/2 x 24 13/16in).
The second Illustrious to serve in the Royal Navy was built by John Randall and John Brent at Rotherhithe where her keel was laid in February 1801. Launched on 3rd September 1803, she was completed at Woolwich and first commissioned for the Channel Fleet under Captain Sir Charles Hamilton. Measured at 1,746 tons, she was 175 feet in length with a 48 foot beam and mounted 74-guns of varying calibre.
Apart from a short spell in the Mediterranean (in 1807), she remained in the Channel fleet until the summer of 1810, having taken part in the famous fire-ship attack on the French fleet in the Basque Roads (in April 1809) and also the expeditions to destroy the docks at Antwerp and render the Schelde unnavigable to large French ships. On 22nd November 1810, Illustrious was amongst the fleet which arrived off Mauritius and subsequently forced the island's surrender on 3rd December. Remaining in the East Indies, she then participated in the month-long attack and capture of the island of Java which finally capitulated at the end of August 1811.
Returning home thereafter, she was extensively refitted at Portsmouth (1813-17) and then laid up in reserve until recommissioned in 1832. Laid up again in 1845, she was subsequently used as a guard-ship, a hospital ship and, lastly, a gunnery training ship until finally broken up at Portsmouth in 1868.
It seems highly probable that this portrait was painted to mark her homeward journey from the East Indies in the autumn of 1811 during which she would certainly have called at Cape Town, not only to victual and water, but also to collect any urgent official dispatches or mail destined for England.