The role of the 74-gun ship-of-the-line:
The concept of the '74' originated in France with the building of L'Invincible in 1744 and, once in service, she was immediately recognised as a revolution in naval design. When that same ship was captured by Admiral Anson in 1747, the Admiralty was presented with a unique opportunity to study her and it proved a seminal moment in the history of the Royal Navy. By the end of the eighteenth century, '74's' formed the backbone of both the Royal Navy and the navies of its traditional enemies and were viewed on all sides as the most useful and effective battleships of their day.
'Nobody contributed more to recording the naval side of the French Revolutionary Wars than Thomas Whitcombe.' (E.H.H. Archibald, The Dictionary of Sea Painters of Europe and America, 2000, p. 233) Whitcombe's depiction of ships implied a specific knowledge of life at sea, although he probably spent most of his career in London. Testimony to Whitcombe's skill as a maritime artist was his selection by James Jenkins to create the paintings for the fifty splendid plates in his 1817 publication, The Naval Achievements of Great Britain.