• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 7660

    Maritime Art

    29 October 2008, London, King Street

  • Lot 35

    Thomas Whitcombe (c.1752-1824)

    The East Indiaman True Briton in two positions and calling for a pilot off Dover

    Price Realised  


    Thomas Whitcombe (c.1752-1824)
    The East Indiaman True Briton in two positions and calling for a pilot off Dover
    signed and dated 'T Whitcombe 1809' (on the stern of rowing boat, lower right)
    oil on canvas
    40 x 60 in. (101.6 x 152.4 cm.)

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    Of the six vessels named True Briton employed in the India trade between 1746 and 1880, the finest was probably the one launched in 1790 which not only founded the Wigram fortune but, in so doing, ensured that her name was perpetuated within the Wigram fleet until the line ceased to exist.

    Built for Sir Robert Wigram in Well's Yard at Deptford, the fourth True Briton to bear the name was measured at 1,209 tons, was 134 feet in length with a 41 foot beam, and was launched on 23rd November 1790. Captain Henry Farrer was appointed to command her and supervise her fitting out which, when completed, saw her ready for sea the following January. Sailing from London at the end of that month, she weighed anchor in the Downs on 3rd February (1791) and headed off down the English Channel bound for the Coromandel Coast (of India) and China. Back home safely in May 1792, her second voyage [May 1794 - December 1795] to Bombay and thence China was delayed due to the outbreak of War with France to the extent that, when she finally sailed from Portsmouth on 2nd May (1794), she did so as part of a convoy of thirty-nine well-armed East Indiamen. Her third voyage [June 1796 - March 1798] to China direct was under a new captain but Farrer was back in command for her fourth trip which lasted until September 1800. Once into the new century, she undertook four more round trips to China, on the last of which she sailed from Portsmouth on 24th February 1809 under the command of Captain George Bonham. On 13th October the same year, True Briton lost contact with the other Bombay ships sailing through the China Seas and was never seen again, her disappearance never explained.

    Since this work is dated 1809, it is probable that it was commissioned by either Sir Robert Wigram or his son Robert - to whom he had given the ship during her fifth voyage [1801-03] - to commemorate the loss of their fine vessel.

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