Thomas Buttersworth (British, 1768-1828) Admiral Lord St. Vincent's flagship Ville de Paris hove-to, but about to get underway again having 'dropped her pilot' off the Bugío lighthouse at the mouth of the Tagus
Lot 102W
Thomas Buttersworth
(British, 1768-1828)
Admiral Lord St. Vincent's flagship Ville de Paris hove-to, but about to get underway again having 'dropped her pilot' off the Bugío lighthouse at the mouth of the Tagus
£ 20,000 - 30,000
US$ 26,000 - 39,000

Lot Details
Thomas Buttersworth (British, 1768-1828)
Admiral Lord St. Vincent's flagship Ville de Paris hove-to, but about to get underway again having 'dropped her pilot' off the Bugío lighthouse at the mouth of the Tagus
signed 'T. Buttersworth' (lower left)
oil on canvas
53.3 x 76.2cm (21 x 30in).


  • Provenance
    with Royal Exchange Gallery
    J. W. Robertson Esq. (bought from the above, July 1987)

    Although undated, this impressive work shows the mighty Ville de Paris sporting a plain blue flag at her main masthead to denote that she has an Admiral of the Blue aboard her as she heads out of the Tagus into open water. The flag officer in question is Admiral Lord St. Vincent, who had recently been created a peer as the result of his victory at the battle of Cape St. Vincent on 14th February 1797. Sir John Jervis, as he was then, had been appointed C.-in-C., Mediterranean in the summer of 1795, following his promotion to Admiral of the Blue on 1st June, and had joined his fleet off Corsica in November the same year. Just a year later, in November 1796, following the loss of his bases in Corsica and on the Italian mainland, Jervis had been obliged to move his centre of operations to Lisbon where, after refitting his ships and giving some much needed verbal encouragement to the Portuguese government, he put to sea again in January 1797 declaring that 'inaction in the Tagus will make us all cowards'. On that occasion, he was actually flying his flag in the soon-to-be immortalised Victory and, on 14th February, having sighted and brought to action a powerful Spanish fleet off Cape St. Vincent, won such a notable victory that he was raised to the peerage as the Earl of St. Vincent in June (1797). That same month, he transferred his flag into the Ville de Paris where it remained for two years until both Admiral and ships returned to England. Thus, the undated painting offered here can be dated fairly probably to 1799 and was very likely commissioned by Lord St. Vincent to mark the end of the hugely successful Mediterranean command which he resigned in June 1799.

    Buttersworth has chosen the distinctive Bugío lighthouse at the mouth of the Tagus to give this work a picturesque landmark in addition to the usual contrast betwixt land and sea seen in most ship portraits. To add further interest, he shows the flagship hove-to, with her sails backed and practically stationary in the water. Off her stern a naval cutter is seen bearing away to starboard and almost certainly carrying off the pilot whose work, having brought the ship safely downriver, is now done. Completing the balance is a flotilla of craft, both large and small, filling the northern horizon making this a particularly attractive memento of the most glamorous episode in this great ship's career.

    As for the Ville de Paris herself, her somewhat surprising name had been chosen so as to perpetuate the name of the French flagship taken as a prize at the battle of the Saintes, Lord Rodney's famous victory which had saved Jamaica from invasion in April 1782. Even though that prize had foundered in a gale off Newfoundland within six months, her propaganda status as a captured flagship was deemed much too valuable to be forgotten.

    Designed by Sir John Henslow, the 'new' Ville de Paris was ordered early in 1789 and her keel was laid in Chatham dockyard on 1st July. After six years 'on the stocks', she was launched on 7th July 1795 and completed for sea in September 1796 at a final cost of almost £79,000. Measured by her builders at 2,332 tons and 190 feet in length with a 53 foot beam, she was the largest warship of the century and mounted an impressive 110-guns of varying calibre, principally 30-32pdrs. First commissioned in October 1796, she sailed for the Mediterranean the following March and, that June, became flagship to Lord St. Vincent. Apart from returning home for refits when necessary and two brief sojourns with the Channel fleet, Ville de Paris spent her entire sea-going career in the Mediterranean, often in the capacity of flagship to successive C.-in-C.s including Vice-Admiral Lord Collingwood (1809-10). Laid up in July 1814 and paid off in August 1815 after Napoleon's final defeat at Waterloo, she was placed in reserve at Plymouth until converted into a lazarette in 1825; thereafter employed at Milford Haven, she remained there until broken up in 1845.

    Works by Buttersworth are in the collections of the U.S. Naval Academy Museum, Annapolis, Maryland (2), National Maritime Museum, Greenwich (16 plus 27 watercolours), Mariners Museum, Newport News, Virginia (2), City Art Gallery, Plymouth (1), Royal Naval Museum, Portsmouth (1), Peabody Museum of Salem, Massachusetts (1 plus 2 watercolours), Library of New South Wales, Sydney (1) and the Maritime Museum, Venice (1)
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