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Dominic Serres, R.A. (1719-1793)
Property from an Important Private Collection
Dominic Serres, R.A. (1719-1793)

The attack on the island of Gorée, off the coast of Senegal, on 29 December 1758 under the command of Commodore The Honourable Augustus Keppel

Details
Dominic Serres, R.A. (1719-1793)
The attack on the island of Gorée, off the coast of Senegal, on 29 December 1758 under the command of Commodore The Honourable Augustus Keppel
oil on canvas
6 ¾ x 12 ¾ in. (17.2 x 32.5 cm.)

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Clare Keiller
Clare Keiller

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Lot Essay

In 1758 The Hon. Augustus Keppel (1725-1786), the second son of the 2nd Earl of Albemarle, in command of the Torbay, was appointed as Commodore to lead a small squadron of four ships-of-the-line, three frigates, and three auxiliary vessels, accompanied by six transports carrying seven hundred troops to secure Gorée, a small island base off Dakar in West Africa. At the time, the island was an important staging post on the route to the Cape of Good Hope, and was, therefore, a strategic outpost from which the French were able to menace British trading vessels on their way to India and the East. It was consequently crucial for the British to capture it every time they were at war with France. Despite losing several of the smaller ships in a severe gale, Keppel captured the island on 29 December 1758, after a fierce bombardment and the British hoisted their flag over Fort St Michael.

Keppel would prove to be one of Serres's most important patrons, and in 1766 he approached the artist with his first commission, a series of four large-scale paintings of the attack on Gorée in order to commemorate one of his most important early victories. These four pictures, two of the attack, and two peaceful scenes of the fleet at anchor after the battle formed part of the Keppel bequest to the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich. The present work is a significantly smaller version of the first painting in this series, and although many of the details of the composition are similar, there are enough variations to make a convincing argument that this painting is a working study for the final picture, as opposed to a later commission from another officer who served at Gorée.
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