Pieter Cornelis Dommersen (Dutch, 1834-1908) Spithead review
Lot 112
Pieter Cornelis Dommersen (Dutch, 1834-1908) A squadron of Her Majesty's ships – old and new – lying in Asia Pass, Plymouth Sound, with spectators on The Hoe enjoying the spectacle and with Mount Edgcumbe looming up behind Drake's Island beyond
Sold for £11,250 (US$ 18,054) inc. premium

Lot Details
Pieter Cornelis Dommersen (Dutch, 1834-1908)
A squadron of Her Majesty's ships – old and new – lying in Asia Pass, Plymouth Sound, with spectators on The Hoe enjoying the spectacle and with Mount Edgcumbe looming up behind Drake's Island beyond
signed and dated 'P.C.Dommersen.1888-' (lower left) and inscribed 'H.M.S. Minotaur/Glatton/Galatea Trinity House/Pembroke/Plymouth' (on the reverse)
oil on panel
39 x 60cm (15 3/8 x 23 5/8in).

Footnotes

  • This fascinating melange of ships encapsulates all the extraordinary variations in design which characterised the mid-Victorian Royal Navy. From vessels powered by sail alone through to steamships driven by propellers, the artist has provided prime examples of all four major forms of propulsion which existed during the nineteenth century. Viewed from the left, the individual ships have been identified as follows:

    H.M.S. Minotaur, one of the unique group of five-masters to serve in the fleet, was built on the Thames, launched in 1863 and completed in 1868 at a staggering cost of £478,855. She and her two sisters were the biggest fighting ships of their day (10,690 tons fully loaded and 400 feet in length), as well as the longest single-screw warships ever built. Throughout her active career, she served as a senior flagship and enjoyed a unique record of pomp and ceremony. Converted into a training ship in 1893, she was finally scrapped in 1922, 61 years after her keel was laid.

    H.M.S. Glatton was one of three big-gun 'breastwork monitors' designed for coastal defence and ordered in the late 1860s. Built at Chatham, Glatton was launched in March 1871 and completed in February 1872. Displacing 4,910 tons, she mounted two massive 12in. 25-ton guns in a single turret and spent her life based at Portsmouth. Her only noteworthy sea service came in 1887 when, during the summer manoeuvres, she was entrusted with the defence of the Thames estuary.

    H.M.S. Enchantress was an elegant paddler – one of the last batch built for the Royal Navy – which displayed all the hallmarks of her breed - a clipper bow, raked masts and funnels, and a counter stern. Capable of 14.5 knots at full steam, she fulfilled her role as a fast despatch vessel until finally broken up in 1905. Launched, in fact, with the name of Helicon in 1865, she was renamed Enchantress in April 1888 when her sister of that name was decommissioned prior to scrapping.

    The last ship, sadly, remains unidentified although she is clearly a wooden two-decker of some size. She might be an ageing 74-gun third rate surviving from a previous era or, just as easily, a more recent vessel carrying far more guns and converted to screw-power in order to augment her lofty sail plan. Many such ships had telescopic funnels which were lowered when the vessel was neither underway nor in steam.

    The artist's choice of these four ships is intriguing to say the least, and it seems possible that the work was commissioned by an officer who had served in all four of them during his career, thus emulating the famous Nicholas Pocock pastiche of all Lord Nelson's flagships in the same anchorage, executed in 1807, and now in the National Maritime Museum's Collection at Greenwich.

Saleroom notices

  • Please note that the paddle steamer depicted is the Trinity House Yacht "Galatea" and not as stated in the catalogue. THV "Galatea" took the Duke of Edinburgh to the opening of the new Eddystone lighthouse in June 1881 and it has been suggested that this may be the occasion depicted here as she comes back into harbour.
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