The English Ship 'Royal Sovereign' with a Royal Yacht in a Light Air

To the left is the 'Royal Sovereign' in starboard-quarter view and at anchor. The Royal Standard flies at the main, the Admiralty flag at the fore and the Union flag at the mizzen. She is firing a salute to port and a number of figures are visible on the deck and in the rigging. This 100-gun, first-rate ship was built by Fisher Harding at Woolwich Dockyard in 1701 and she can be identified by the large horse and rider on her taffrail, below the middle lantern. She was regarded as the greatest ship in the world and her decorations were elaborately carved - at such huge expense in fact that the Admiralty thereafter severely restricted the carving that ships were allowed to have, according to their importance.

It is possible that this is the scene at Spithead on 4 June 1702 when Prince George of Denmark dined on board the 'Royal Sovereign' with the Duke of Ormonde. There are a number of ships in the far distance. In the left foreground a ship's boat or barge approaches the 'Sovereign's' stern where there are two other boats on the port quarter and two on the starboard quarter. In the centre foreground is a fishing pink with her square sail lowered and two people on board. Next to it is a skiff or wherry alongside also with two people. Further away on the right is one of the ketch-rigged royal yachts, in port-bow view, which is probably the 'Isabella'. A ship's boat or barge is leaving her starboard bow, pulling towards the 'Royal Sovereign'.

The artist was younger son of Willem van de Velde the Elder. Born in Leiden, he studied under Simon de Vlieger in Weesp and in 1652 moved back to Amsterdam. He worked in his father's studio and developed the skill of carefully drawing ships in tranquil settings. He changed his subject matter, however, when he came with his father to England in 1672-73, by a greater concentration on royal yachts, men-of-war and storm scenes. From this time painting sea battles for Charles II and his brother (and Lord High Admiral) James, Duke of York, and other patrons, became a priority. Unlike his father's works, however, they were not usually eyewitness accounts. After his father's death in 1693 his continuing role as an official marine painter obliged him to be more frequently present at significant maritime events. The painting is signed and dated lower right 'W van Velde J 1703' and was once owned by J.M.W Turner's Scottish patron and friend H.A.J. Munro of Novar (1797-1864).

Object Details

ID: BHC3614
Collection: Fine art
Type: Painting
Display location: Display - QH
Creator: Velde, Willem van de, the Younger
Vessels: Royal Sovereign (1701)
Date made: 1703
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Caird Collection
Measurements: Painting: 1803 x 1447 mm; Frame: 2040 mm x 1673 mm x 120 mm

Your Request

If an item is shown as “offsite”, please allow eight days for your order to be processed. For further information, please contact Archive staff:

Tel: (during Library opening hours)

Click “Continue” below to continue processing your order with the Library team.