'Sketch between Decks, May 75' [Bray album]

No. 51 of 74 (PAJ1976 - PAJ2049)

Titled and dated as above, and signed - all on the backing sheet- 'AVpGB' (to the life by Gabriel Bray). This drawing was done on the 'Pallas's' transatlantic crossing from Africa to Barbados, 4 April - 31 May 1775. The scene is likely to be in the ship's cockpit - a lower-deck space, with little natural light, that was the home of midshipmen and master's mates. There they slept, ate and - as shown here - relaxed and studied by candlelight. One of their hanging cots, with a draw-string bag for personal items suspended at its head, can be seen in the top right corner, hanging parallel to the ship's side, as indicated by the positions of the hanging knee and deck beam, top centre. These were the living conditions that 'young gentlemen' first met when they went to sea and it is likely that one or more of those shown are either the Hon. Thomas Pakenham, or Lord Charles Fitzgerald, two of the aristocratic protégés of the ship's captain, the Hon. William Cornwallis.

This is one of 73 drawings by Bray (plus one signed 'NF 1782') preserved in a 19th-century album. They have now been separately remounted. Bray (1750-1823), was second lieutenant of the 44-gun ‘Pallas’ under Captain the Hon. William Cornwallis (1744-1819) – later a well-known admiral - on two voyages (1774-77) to report on British interests in West Africa, including the slave trade. The dated drawings refer only to the first of these, from December 1774 to September 1775, though a few may be from the second. Others comprise country views, some of Deal, Kent (where Bray may have come from), and others of social-history interest.

Object Details

ID: PAJ2026
Collection: Fine art
Type: Drawing
Display location: Not on display
Creator: Gabriel Bray
Date made: May 1775
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London. Purchased with the assistance of the Society for Nautical Research Macpherson Fund
Measurements: Secondary support: 198 mm x 245 mm; Primary support: 126 mm x 178 mm; Mount: 318 x 483 mm

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