Part of a huge Census of "Brittania's"
The West Indiaman 'Britannia'
A portrait of the West Indiaman 'Britannia', shown in three positions. On the left the ship is shown in stern view and on the far right in bow view. The ship is shown port broadside in the foreground, flying the red ensign and a red pennant. The figurehead is appropriately in the form of 'Britannia' with helmet and trident clearly visible. There are sailors shown in the bow as well as some passengers on the deck. Several figures wear top hats and two women are visible through the rigging.
The ship had just returned from a voyage to Barbados, where it suffered a severe hurricane on 28 June 1838. The artist's son was on board, since he had tuberculosis and had been given a free trip to Barbados by the ship's master, Captain William Simmonds. This helped him to recover and the picture was the artist's present to Simmonds, in gratitude. On the same return to Bristol, Simmonds was also presented with a goblet in gratitude for the skilful way in which he dealt with the hurricane. The artist has bathed the painting in soft light and his careful handling of the subject reflects the purpose of the work.
The 'Britannia' was built in Bristol in 1829 and was used for the Barbados trade. Her owners were Thomas Daniel of Bristol and John Daniel of London: Simmonds became her master in 1836. The ship sank in 1849 off Wexford, on the coast of Ireland, when bound for Madeira and Barbados. Although her cargo was lost the crew were saved.
The artist was born in Bristol and was a pupil of Thomas Lang. He lived and worked in the commercial port there and his familiarity with marine subjects suggests that he may for a time have gone to sea. He was considered the leading ship-portrait painter in Bristol during the 19th century and this painting shows his close attention to the details of a specific ship's appearance and rig. The painting is signed and dated, lower left, 'J. Walter 1838' and is inscribed on the back, 'Captain Symonds Bristol to the West Indies'https://www.rmg.co.uk/collections/o...object-13827