Spithead, Portsmouth, Hampshire, England
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From an album of drawings by Gabriel Bray. No. 55 of 74. Dated and signed 'April 75 AVprGB' (to the life by Gabriel Bray). The ships mount about 11 guns a side, suggesting they are small firgates of about 26-28 guns. The ensigns of both lack the blue and Scottish saltire element in the upper quadrant, which may just be an unfinished detail. A naval lugger (possibly a launch or longboat) is in the foreground. Since Bray has signed the drawing with his usual 'ad vivum' abbreviation, it may be a scene he observed off Africa during the 'Pallas' voyage, or perhaps one closer to home just finished at sea later: for he clearly did not do everything strictly from life, as shown by his sketching subject. The ship on the left flies the red ensign often signifying one on independent commission, while the white one suggests the frigate on the right is from a command under a flag officer of the white squadron. This vessel also shows a rare example of the use of a long square driver (sail) hoisted in a following wind to the peak of the lateen mizzen yard, which normally carries a fore-and aft sail. Neither ship appears large enough to be the 'Pallas'. This is one of 73 drawings by Bray (plus one signed 'NF 1782') preserved in a 19th-century album that was purchased for the Museum by the Macpherson Fund of the Society for Nautical Research in April 1991. They have now been separately remounted. Bray (1750-1823), was second lieutenant of the 44-gun ‘Pallas’ under Captain the Hon. William Cornwallis (1744-1819) – later a well-known admiral - on two voyages (1774-77) to report on British interests in West Africa, including the slave trade. The dated drawings refer only to the first of these, from December 1774 to September 1775, though a few may be from the second. Others comprise country views, some of Deal, Kent (where Bray may have come from), and others of social-history interest.
Credit Line: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London. Purchased with the assistance of the Society for Nautical Research Macpherson Fund