H.M.S. Revenge off Marseilles - Ange-Joseph Antoine Roux, 1825
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Measurements: Overall: 54cm (21in) x 69cm (27in)
Provenance: Captain Parker Duckworth Bingham, R.N. (1799-1850)
Watercolour, pen and ink. Portside view of the flagship of the Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean Fleet. Signed and dated lower right 'Antne Roux à Marseille, 1825’. Framed and glazed.
The present painting of H.M.S. Revenge was commissioned by Lieutenant Bingham from Ange-Joseph Antoine Roux (1765-1835), a member of a well known family of Marseilles hydrographers that for three generations also executed ship portraits. Bingham joined Revenge in 1823 then flying the flag of Sir Harry Burrard-Neale as Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean Fleet. In December 1826 Sir Edward Codrington succeeded Burrard-Neale, and Bingham was appointed his Flag-Lieutenant.
Ange-Joseph Antoine was the son of Joseph Roux, Hydrographer to King Louis XV of France, and was raised and educated in his father’s Marseilles shop. Joseph published a folio of twelve Mediterranean charts which were used aboard HMS Victory in 1803 and 1805, and aboard HMS Shannon. Joseph was also an artist and evidently trained Ange-Joseph whose earliest known work is a sketch from 1787 detailing of a man-of-war. Antoine became famous for his ship portraits and shipowners and captains were eager to entrust him with the task of accurately and artistically depicting their ships with special attention paid to hulls and rigging.
H.M.S. Revenge, a large 74-gun third-rate ship of the line, was a Trafalgar veteran, and on 21 October 1805 was commanded by Robert Moorsom in Collingwood's lee column. William ‘Nasty Face’ Robinson was serving on Revenge and it is through his reminiscences that we know much about her performance at Trafalgar. When the combined enemy fleet was first sighted it ‘looked like a forest of masts rising from the Ocean’. Revenge came under fire a long time before she returned with her first shot. William Nasty Face Robinson said “Many of our men thought it hard that the fighting should be all on one side and became impatient to return this compliment”. Captain Moorsom knew that all their powder and ball was going to be needed when they got close in. He told his men ‘Never mind their firing, when I fire a carronade from the quarterdeck, that will be your signal for you to begin, and I know you will do your Duty us Englishmen”. As soon as the gunners heard the carronade they let go all their double shotted cannon. Moorsom made his way to the gap between the Spanish San Ildefonso and the French Achille but the two ships closed up and Achille’s jib boom ripped away Revenge’s mizzen topsail, Achille failed to ram Revenge up against San IIdefonso but the enemy crew were keen to board Revenge, Nastyface recalls “One ran her bowsprit over our poop with a number of her crew on it and in her rigging, two or three hundred men were ready to follow, but they caught a Tartar, our Marines with their small arms, and the carronades on the poop loaded with canister shot swept them off so fast, some into the water and some on the decks, that they were glad to sheer off”.
Revenge was later engaged at the Battle of Basque Roads in April 1809 under Captain Alexander Robert Kerr. In October 1810, Revenge captured the French privateer cutter Vauteur off Cherbourg after a five-hour chase. Vauteur had been armed with 16 guns, but she threw 14 of them overboard during the chase. She was the former British cutter John Bull of Plymouth, and was returned to Plymouth on 19 October. On 13 November 1810, the frigates Diana and Niobe attacked two French frigates (Elisa and Amazone), which sought protection under the shore batteries near Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue. Revenge and Donegal arrived two days later and together the four ships fired upon the French for as long as the tide would allow. The operation cost Donegal three men wounded. Élisa was driven ashore and ultimately destroyed as a result of this action; Amazone escaped safely into Le Havre.
Revenge served until 1842, being broken up in 1849. She was one of the first warships of the Royal Navy to be painted with the Nelson Checker, although the present work shows post-1812 white paintwork rather than the Trafalgar era yellow ochre.