Although miniaturised, this combines a very well balanced composition, with a pleasing technical study of a wide range of sailing craft with the artist's more usual treatment of the sea with its stylised tracery of wavelets. Here the choice of flat calm conditions is a happy one enhanced by the mirror-like expanse of water. Salmon demonstrates his facility to endow the painting with those luminous qualities of sea and sky for which he is renown.
Several features help relieve the peaceful scene of possible tedium. Making for the beach, the small lug-sailed boat under oars on the left provides a focus of movement to the otherwise static scene. It also leads the eye into the foreground towards the beached sloop and its attendant figures, framed by the rocks on either margin. Similiarly, the gesticulating figure near the stern of beached sloop in the foreground appears to be making a telling point to his attentive companions, ingenious minor detail typical of the artist.
Behind the lugger is a large cutter; probably at anchor, judging by what would seem to be an anchor buoy just off the bow. Astern of the cutter is a brig, also presumably at anchor, drying her sails in ideal conditions. Near the right margin in the distance, a small schooner-rigged fishing boat drifts along with sails lowered.
There is probably an element of artistic licence as regards topography, circumstances favouring the region of the Clyde estuary, Scotland. Behind the mast of the beached sloop there is a gap in the hills, suggesting the entrance to one of the lochs in the vicinity. It is interesting to compare the almost crater like peak of the smaller mountain on the left of the panel, with the very similar detail in Wilmerding plate 38 (page 63) entitled 'Coastal view near Greenock' which incidentally is dated 1826 and numbererd 501.
Regarding the numbering on the reverse of the painting; the prefix 'N" has not been previously encountered, but it is most likely that N. 518 simply stands for No. 518. Judging by the extant copy of his diary Salmon's spelling seems to have been fairly arbitrary at best, so this seems a fair interpretation. According to Salmon's journal (Wilmerding page 89), his first picture on returning to Greenock in 1826 was numbered 473 and on returning to London later that year in his first picture there was n. 509. By the beginning of 1827, still in London, it seems that his system of numbering his paintings had reached 526. In which case this painting would have been painted in London towards the end of 1826, after Salmon's return from Greenock, Scotland, with his sketchbooks to prompt him and the pictorial images of the Clyde region still fresh in his mind.
We are grateful to Mr. A.S. Davidson for his help in preparing this catalogue entry.