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Thomas Baines (1820-1875)
Thomas Baines (1820-1875)

H.M.S. Bellerophon leading the bombardment of the Syrian fortress of Acre on 3 November 1840

Thomas Baines (1820-1875)
H.M.S. Bellerophon leading the bombardment of the Syrian fortress of Acre on 3 November 1840
signed and dated 'JOHN T BAINES/DEC. 19 1840' (lower right) and inscribed 'The Bellerophon leading the attack/at the seige of ...' (on a partial label attached to the reverse)
oil on canvas
20 ¼ x 30 in. (51.4 x 76.2 cm.)

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Lot Essay

In 1839, after a decade of unrest in the Middle East, the Great Powers [Britain, Austria, France and Russia] agreed to help Turkey recover her province of Syria which had been effectively independent since an insurrection there in 1831. Once matters had been formalised by the signing of the Treaty of London in July 1840, the allies assembled an expeditionary force which achieved significant successes during September and October, followed by the naval bombardment and consequent fall of the coastal fortress of Acre on 3 November. This was carried out by a combined Anglo-Austrian fleet which included ships-of-the-line as well as several of the new paddle frigates recently built for the Royal Navy. Apart from the obvious success of the bombardment, the event proved more notable for the fact that it was the very first occasion on which steam-powered ships were used in action, naval warfare being fundamentally changed thereafter.

Born in Norfolk in 1820, Thomas Baines was the second son of John Thomas Baines, a master mariner, and Mary Ann Watson. After being educated educated privately in King's Lynn, he was apprenticed to a painter of heraldic arms on coach panels and began sketching marine subjects. At the age of twenty-two, he left England for South Africa onboard the Olivia (captained by a family friend) and worked in Cape Town as a scenic and portrait artist, before becoming a marine and portrait painter in 1845. Baines became official war artist during the so-called 'Eighth Frontier War' for the British Army (1851-1852) and, in 1853, accompanied David Livingstone along the Zambezi - he was one of the first white men to view Victoria Falls. Returning to South Africa in 1869, Baines led one of the first gold prospecting expeditions to Mashonaland in what was later to become Rhodesia.

We are grateful to Michael Naxton for his assistance in preparing this catalogue entry.

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