Poor downtrodden charts

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I'm always happy to highlight the work of colleagues and have recently enjoyed an exhibition that opened at the National Maritime Museum a couple of months ago. Called Broadsides: Caricature and the Navy 1775-1815, it explores the history of the Royal Navy with images from the Museum’s collection of caricatures.

Ever on the lookout for navigational imagery, I was particularly impressed by a 1785 print, 'Sea Amusement. Or Commanders in Chief of Cup and Ball on a Cruise' by Thomas Rowlandson.

Sea Amusement

Produced shortly after Britain's defeat in the War of American Independence, it shows George III's brother, the Duke of Cumberland (left), who rose to vice admiral despite lacking naval experience, and Sir Edmund Affleck, a veteran of the Battle of the Saintes who had been made vice admiral in 1784. Rowlandson has the two of them at play with a child's toy while a navigational chart and plans for a coastal fortification lie neglected, trodden underfoot. The navy has become decadent, he tells us, no longer fit for service because of the neglect of those in its upper ranks. Nothing subtle there, I'm glad to see, and it's good to see charts getting a nice role in the message.

There's plenty else to see in the show, which runs until 3 February 2013 (and is free), so try to get along. Alternatively, buy the rather nice book - a perfect stocking-filler for those with the right breeches.