Portrait of a Naval Officer on the quarterdeck of the 80-gun three-decker HMS Superb (1842)

A whole plate size salted paper print. A view along the starboard side of quarterdeck of the 80-gun three-decker HMS Superb (1842), looking forward towards the waist with the canvas-covered bulwarks protecting the stowed hammocks. HMS Superb was part of the Experimental Squadron sent to sea to test the Symonds designs against earlier warship designs.

Four carriage-mounted 32-pounder (8ft 6inch) shell guns pierce the bulwarks. In the left foreground is a full length portrait of an unidentified naval officer, possibly Lieutenant William Gordon, looking at the camera. His left elbow is resting on the breach of second 32-pounder (8ft 6inch) shell gun (from the right), and his right arm is bent with his hand in front of his waist.

Reverse has been annotated in pencil by Admiral Ballard in 1934: 'Starboard side of quarterdeck of Superb in 1845 (note height of bulwarks and double breeching of guns)'.

It is not certain who took the photograph, as both Talbot and Henneman, acting as his assistant, were on board at the time. (See article 'Talbot and Henneman, Mount Edgcumbe and Plymouth Dockyard Images' by Michael Grey in "The PhotoHistorian", Autumn 2014). Talbot and Henneman had arrived at Mount Edgecumbe by 20 September and Calvert Jones wrote to Talbot on 1 October 'You were fortunate in having such capital subjects as the experimental squadron and I shall be most anxious to see a specimen.' [BL, LA45-133].

Michael Gray also says that this is Lieutenant Brooks. However, the 1845 Navy List for Superb does not include any officer of that name. It is more likely to be Lieutenant William E. A. Gordon, as Henrietta Horatia Maria Gaisford in a letter to her half-brother WHF Talbot dated 23 May 1846 from Luz, France, states '...There we again met Ld Goderich & Mr Gordon, who were at Eauxbonnes – Mr G. turns out to be the very Lieut. who figures in the Talbotype of the Superb!...' [BL, LA46-68] He joined HMS Superb on 22 January 1845 and was appointed to HMS Inflexible in June 1846.

The original negative of this original print is held at the British Library, reference: LA3061.

Object Details

Type: Salted paper print
Display location: Not on display
Creator: Henneman, Nicolaas; Talbot, William Henry Fox
Vessels: Superb (1842)
Date made: 26 September 1845
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Fox Talbot Collection.
Measurements: Overall: 185 mm x 231 mm

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