The two-decker ship in this painting in near starboard-broadside view is probably of 74 guns and is under plain sail before the wind on a moderate sea. The main course is loosely furled up so as not to mask the forecourse. The ship appears to have a round fo'c’sle head above a figurehead of a woman in a flowing but simple white classical-style gown, probably representing an aristocratic or mythological figure. Three white wind vanes fly at the mastheads but no pennant, and there is a red ensign at the peak, though this is mostly lost behind the mizzen course or driver. Across the horizon behind, nearly filling the full width of the canvas, looms the impressive bulk of the island of St Helena, with most of the precipitous coast and the only town, Jamestown, shown astern of the ship. The height of the cliffs is emphasized by other shipping, shown small and closer in under the land, and almost in silhouette against the sky to left and right. The lightly clouded sky was originally much bluer, the colour having faded. The perspective of the ship's hull is rather flat and the drawing of the quarter gallery slightly awkward. While the rigging is largely complete and original, some has also clearly been done in a rather perfunctory way, using a straight edge but without detailed finishing where the lines join spars. This suggests it may in part be studio work.
The commercially prepared canvas is unlined and has old tear damage at two points, repaired by paper patching behind and repainting. Removal of overpaint at one of these shows the bright original blue of the sky (also visible, as more common, at points along the frame-edge). This suggests that the damage and repair were relatively early in the picture's life. The Huggins signature was only found in April 2011 after old facing paper was removed for record photography.
Where to see this painting?
National Maritime Museum
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