A Sixth-Rate on the Stocks

The exact location of the shipyard in this painting is unclear but it may be on the south bank of the Thames at Rotherhithe. The ship in the foreground ready for launching is a 24-gun sloop of war, much in use by the Navy for patrolling around coasts in peace and war, and there is another ship in dry-dock to the left under repair with only the lower masts standing. In the foreground to the right some tree trunks are piled ready for use for shipbuilding and behind them two figures sit on ready-sawn planks. In the right forergound there is a small capstan-powered crane overhanging the edge of the wharf. The inclusion of many figures informs the painting and the artist has chosen to include a variety of social types and activities at the dockyard. Several workmen can be seen working on scaffolding under the ship, and there are a number of figures on its deck. A small figure to the far right, which may be a child, appears to be balancing precariously on the rail, one hand on the ensign staff while the other waves a hat. A man to the left holds out his hand in a gesture of warning. Figures appear at all the upstairs windows of the building to the centre left, which may be the master shipwright's house. The sixth-rate is probably about to be launched and flies a Union jack at the bow, a naval pendant on a temporary midships flagmast and a red ensign at the stern.

John Cleveley's principal profession was as a shipwright in the Royal Dockyard at Deptford. He did not become a professional painter until the late 1740s. He was an early exhibitor at the Free Society of Artists in London and two of his three sons, John Cleveley the Younger and his twin brother, Robert Cleveley also became painters after working in Deptford's Royal Dockyard. The painting has been signed by the artist and is dated 1758.

Object Details

ID: BHC1045
Collection: Fine art
Type: Painting
Display location: Display - Maritime London Gallery
Creator: Cleveley, John
Date made: 1758
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Caird Collection
Measurements: Painting: 654 x 1289 mm; Frame: 864 mm x 1491 mm x 108 mm
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