Guardship off The Nore

(Updated February 2022) A painting showing a frigate anchored in the distance off the English coast. The round form of its forecastle head bulwark indicates a date of about 1820 at earliest. There are two sailing trawlers in foreground and the one closest to the viewer is shown towing a small boat in the lively sea. The cliffs on the right and the frigate are both picked out by a shaft of bright light through the dramatically piled-up clouds. This may be intended to reinforce a sense of national identity.

The painting came into the Museum in 1946, with its existing title and firmly ascribed to the 19th-century marine artist, Clarkson Stanfield, from the collection of Frederick John Nettlefold (1867-1949). A member of the Birmingham screw-making family, he lived in Sussex and was a partner in Moore & Nettlefold, glass bottle manufacturers. How and when he acquired this and other pictures is not clear. The frigate is too fully rigged to be a credible representation of a guardship, and they were anyway usually larger vessels, while it is also far from certain whether the location shown is the Nore (the junction of the Thames and Medway). There are one or two instances when Stanfield worked on other artists' pictures - for example finishing one by Chambers after the latter's death in 1840 - and while he could have painted much of the sky in this example there is no other evidence for this. The rest of the picture is certainly by another hand. Though ultimately deriving from Dutch 17th-century models, the composition and aspects of handling, especially the coast on the right, show greater influence by J.M.W Turner than Stanfield, probably through his 'Liber Studiorum' prints such as that of the now missing 'Leader seapiece' of c. 1807-09 (Butlin & Joll, no. 205), on which the composition may be based. The authorship is considerable puzzle. Nettlefold had a good collection, of which a well-illustrated catalogue by R.C. Grundy was published in 1933-38.

Object Details

ID: BHC1211
Collection: Fine art
Type: Painting
Display location: Not on display
Creator: Stanfield, Clarkson; British School, 19th century
Date made: circa 1840
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Measurements: Painting: 749 x 1054 mm; Frame: 968 x 1275 x 100 mm

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