Probably painted circa 1730-40, this panorama of the ancient port and city of Alexandria is one of several by the artist, each of which can be distinguished from the others by a slightly different treatment of the various vessels outside the harbour. The painting offered in this catalogue differs from the two other known versions in that it shows a complete image of the English frigate firing the salute whereas in the Greenwich version, that vessel is hidden behind the bow of the new arrival and only the forward section of her hull is visible; likewise, in the only other version available to commerce, the saluting frigate is totally absent. Both these alternative renderings have been illustrated in works published by the Antique Collectors' Club of Woodbridge, Suffolk, namely E.H.H. Archibald, Dictionary of Sea Painters, 3rd edition, 2000, plate 213, p. 324 and F.B. Cockett, Peter Monamy, 1681-1749, and His Circle, 2000, pl. 36, p. 117.
The Egyptian city of Alexandria, which takes its name from Alexander the Great who founded it circa 332 B.C., is situated on a narrow peninsular between Lake Mareotis and the Mediterranean Sea, and is very close to the western mouth of the River Nile. Blessed with two harbours thanks to Alexander the Great's construction of the mole joining the island of Pharos to the city, Alexandria has long been one of the main ports of entry to the lands of the desert and most notably Egypt herself. Once the European nations, particularly England, began to acquire territory in India, Alexandria assumed a new importance as the first stopping place for travellers taking the overland route to the sub-continent, a journey vastly quicker than the alternative involving a long and slow voyage through two oceans via the Cape of Good Hope.
J. Cook is a relatively unknown maritime artist, which, given his undoubted skill, is rather surprising. A follower of the van de Veldes, his work is mainly concentrated in the Mediterranean and he is best known for his several topographical views of Alexandria.