Allowing for some licence with the topography, it is believed that this striking panorama depicts Gibraltar from the east and shows the town and seafront fortifications as they appeared in the early nineteenth century. Captured from Spain in July 1704, during the War of the Spanish Succession, and ceded to Britain in perpetuity at the Peace of Utrecht (1713), Gibraltar, standing as it does at the gateway to the Mediterranean, has been a vital pillar of British foreign policy for two-hundred-and-fifty years. Despite numerous Spanish attempts to dislodge the Union Flag, including the Great Siege of 1779-83, the 'Rock' has remained resolutely British to this day and has provided a safe haven for the Royal Navy for generations of sailors and their ships.
H.M.S. Asia was a modified version of the 84-gun two-decker Formidable whose lines had been taken from the captured French Canopus and skilfully adapted by Sir William Seppings. One of her most distinctive features was Seppings' innovative rounded stern and it is primarily this characteristic which has identified the vessel in this painting. Asia, along with her sisters Bombay and Ganges, was built in Bombay and constructed of Indian teak for longevity. Measured at 2,279 tons and classed as a Second Rate, she was 196 feet in length with a 51½ foot beam and mounted 84-guns, including a main armament of 32-32pdrs. on her gundeck. Ordered in 1819, her keel was laid in January 1822 and she was launched on 19th January 1824. Upon completion, she was sent to England and fitted out as flagship to Sir Edward Codrington, Commander-in-Chief Mediterranean, who took her out to join the fleet at Malta in 1826.
Under Captain Edward Curzon, her first taste of action was at Navarino in October 1827. All through the 1820s, Greece had been trying to throw off Turkish rule and, by 1827, the three great powers - Britain, France and Russia - had formed an alliance to further this aim. In an attempt to secure a peaceful solution, Codrington was sent to negotiate with the Turkish Navy whose main fleet was lying in Navarino Bay, on the Morean coast of Greece. On 20th October 1827, he took his allied fleet into the bay in the hope of enforcing a truce merely by a show of strength but the plan had to be abandoned when Turkish ships opened fire and Codrington was forced to retaliate. A furious action then ensued which resulted not only in a Turkish defeat with extremely heavy losses but also the attainment of Greek Independence.
Asia was subsequently flagship in the Mediterranean on two further commissions, took part in the operations off the Syrian coast in 1840 and was then flagship to Admiral Hornby in the South Pacific (1847-52). After several years laid up at Portsmouth, she was made Guardship there in 1859 and survived until finally broken up in 1908.