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    Sale 5887

    Maritime Art

    13 May 2009, London, South Kensington

  • Lot 813

    Thomas Whitcombe (c.1752-1824)

    H.M.S Venerable exchanging fire with the French frigate Alcmène prior to capturing her off the Canary Islands on 16th January 1814, with another French frigate, the Iphigénie, bearing away to escape the fight

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    Thomas Whitcombe (c.1752-1824)
    H.M.S Venerable exchanging fire with the French frigate Alcmène prior to capturing her off the Canary Islands on 16th January 1814, with another French frigate, the Iphigénie, bearing away to escape the fight
    signed and dated 'T Whitcombe 1816' (lower left)
    oil on canvas
    40 x 60 in. (101.6 x 152.4 cm.)


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    On 20th October 1813, two large 40-gun French frigates, the Alcmène [Captain Emeric] and the Iphigénie [Captain Villeneuve] sailed from Cherbourg on a six-month patrol. After taking two valuable English guineamen off the west coast of Africa, they proceeded to the Canaries where, over the ensuing weeks, they captured a further six prizes. Early on the morning of 16th January [1814], they were sighted by the British '74 Venerable [Captain Worth], flying the flag of Admiral Philip Durham en route to the Caribbean to take up his appointment as C. in C. in the Leeward Islands, accompanied by the 22-gun frigate Cyane and a captured French prize brig, the Jason.

    Durham ordered Cyane to reconnoitre the two unknown frigates and, at 9.00am., she signalled that they were enemies. Venerable immediately gave chase and, despite the frigates' superior sailing qualities, gradually overhauled the two Frenchmen until she was able to open fire on the Alcmène at about 6.15pm. After a brief exchange, Alcmène than cut across Venerable's bow in an attempt to disable her bowsprit and foremast, thereby slowing her down and allowing the frigate to escape what would undoubtedly be a severely unequal fight. It is presumed that Captain Emeric had expected Iphigénie to run to his assistance but she did not and simply bore away under all sail to escape the scene. A further ten minutes of pounding by the powerful '74 sealed Alcmène's fate and, once Captain Worth and his boarding party had secured her main deck, Emeric had no alternative but to strike her colours and surrender. It had been a remarkably short but nevertheless furious action and French casualties were disproportionately high.

    Whilst obviously pleased with their prize, Admiral Durham and Captain Worth felt the business was unfinished however, and sent Cyane and Jason to shadow the Iphigénie before Venerable finally caught up and captured her as well four days later, on 20th January.

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    Exhibited

    London, Naval, Shipping and Fisheries Exhibition, 1905, no.4.