à bout de souffle

Page Sixteen

Excerpt from a letter, 1970, as dated. Sailing should read Signalling.

From the Collection of the Marquis of Thomond

mysteries and curiousities

33 x 61, signed P.Monamy ll. The English Fleet at anchor with the Admiral's ship signalling.

The above painting, when exhibited in 2009, was captioned: "Formerly in the collection of the Marquis of Thomond of the Irish peerage. The Royal Standard is flown at the jackstaff (sic --- ouch, ouch) as a signal for the fleet captains to come aboard, and its folds have been arranged to display the harp of Ireland together with the white horse of Hanover. This painting can be thought of as a forerunner to a series of paintings culminating in Monamy's Signal to Anchor, which is perhaps his best known and single most representative work." See Signal to Anchor. Also here.

The caption had been obviously, but regrettably, contaminated by another caption to the same painting occuring earlier elsewhere. Blushes all round, and a lesson in the folly of imbecilic and indiscriminate repetition, so characteristic of the marine art world and its circles.

Can any confidence be placed in an author who doesn't know his jackstaff from his ensign? Press on, there are other questions to be answered. The mystery of why a painting, above right, which "bears signature l.l.: P.Monamy" should be described as "STUDIO" of Peter Monamy, when it came up for auction in 2005, is pondered upon below. The mystery of the painting said to have been formerly owned by the Marquis of Thomond, however, lies firstly in how it comes to be in a private collection by 2009, when it was clearly in a non-private collection, not long after 1970. See here.

"..... in a work of art ..... we have to develop a technique of ..... asking questions which arise out of the work itself."
Helen Gardner, The Business of Criticism, 1959.

     monochrome stresses the changes     

It's a pity that picture B, auctioned in 2005, appears in a relatively ill-defined reproduction, vitiating examination. Are its details not picked out with the same care as in picture A ? It's difficult to tell.

The prominence of the Irish Harp is fairly clear in both pictures, but the White Horse of Hanover seems to have been glossed over in painting B. Might this date painting B to post-1727, or post-1733, when both George II and his Minister, Walpole, were rapidly falling out of popular favour ? Perhaps.

The varied treatment of the light falling on the sails in the two pictures parallels the light reversal (below) in the Signal to Anchor at Greenwich, when compared with its fellow at Yale. Why any of these four works should be labelled "studio" remains a mystery. In one sense all Monamy's pictures were studio productions, but maybe there are special forensic reasons in the case of picture B.

click for earlier discussion

"...the styles of Scott and Peter Monamy, and ultimately of all the English marine artists of the eighteenth century, were formed entirely on that of the Van de Veldes."
Whinney and Millar, The Oxford History of English Art: 1625-1714

"If you believe that, you will believe anything." Duke of Wellington.

In what sense, as stated above, were all paintings by Monamy studio productions? It is virtually impossible to tell what paintings were painted by Monamy personally; or indeed whether any paintings bearing his signature were painted solely and exclusively by him, or jointly by his studio apprentices, assistants, staff, employees or whatever else they might be called. The same goes for the majority of familiar names during the C18th. It may not apply to Brooking, but must surely apply to Scott, Swaine or any other painters who succeeded in managing a halfway successful business.

Monamy was a tradesman running a business. He advertised himself, and his products. We know he employed a Henry Kirby, and Francis Swaine. It looks to me as though he also employed Brooking, off and on.

Picture B, left, is simply a fairly imaginative variation of picture A, and I can't see any reason why both paintings shouldn't have been produced under Monamy's direction, some time during the 1730s. Perhaps an eminent expert can correct me if I'm wrong ?

Art historian Thomas Hoving estimates that various types of forged art comprise up to 40% of the art market.

False Impressions: The Hunt for Big-Time Art Fakes. Thomas Hoving, Simon & Schuster, 1996.

Wikipedia: The forger may omit details typical to the artist they are trying to imitate, or add anachronisms, in an attempt to claim that the forged work is a slightly different copy, or a previous version of a more famous work.

See: How to paint a van de Velde.

The greatest historical heresy that a writer can commit in the eyes of many English readers is to tell them the truth.

Alexander Fraser Tytler, Lord Woodhouselee, 1747 - 1813, author, translator and lawyer.

If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear
In a world of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.
Truth is treason in an empire of lies.

George Orwell, 1903 - 1950

Den forntid ej vördar, ej framtid är värd.   -   Those who fail to honour the past, are unworthy of a future

Artur Hazelius, 1833-1901, Grundaren av Nordiska Museet och Skansen

The pain of a new idea is one of the greatest pains in human nature. People find it much easier to believe a lie they've heard a thousand times than a fact they've never heard before.

Daniel P. Reid

"The truth ... is that to the dilettante the thing is the end, while to the professional as such it is the means; and only he who is directly interested in a thing, and occupies himself with it from love of it, will pursue it with entire seriousness. It is from such as these, and not from wage-earners, that the greatest things have always come."

Arthur Schopenhauer, 1851

"An administrator in a bureaucratic world is a man who can feel big by merging his nonentity in an abstraction. A real person in touch with real things inspires terror in him."

Marshall McLuhan, June 22 1951

"Scholars belong to guilds held together by common opinions, attitudes, and methods. As a rule, innovation is welcome only when it is confined to surface details and does not modify the structure as a whole."

Cyrus H.Gordon, 1982

"Thornhill ….. was loud in pushing himself forward and imposed his predominance, partly by underground political channels and the support of the Earls of Sunderland and Halifax, during the early years of the Hanoverian dynasty. …. There seems to have been a current of nationalist feeling which Thornhill fanned and profited by. In this, as in other things, Hogarth followed in his father-in-law's footsteps".

Sir Ellis K.Waterhouse

"In one view ... the history of scholarship is a history of error".
E.G.Stanley, 1975.

"Mediocre minds cannot understand it when a man does not submit to hereditary prejudices."

Albert Einstein

"Academics are, at heart, pretty miserable, resentful people." Mediocrities, in a word.

"Mediocre minds cannot understand it when a man ..... honestly uses his intelligence."

Albert Einstein; amateur mathematician

All truth passes through three stages. 1) It is ridiculed. 2) It is violently opposed. 3) It is accepted as self-evident.

Arthur Schopenhauer

No man is well pleased to have his all neglected, be it ever so little.

Samuel Johnson, 7th February 1754

"Every fresh truth is received unwillingly. To expect the world to receive a new truth, or even an old truth, without challenging it, is to look for one of those miracles which do not occur"

Alfred Russel Wallace

"When a thing is asserted as a fact, always ask who first reported it, and what means he had of knowing the truth."

James Spedding, 1808 - 1881.

Der Horizont mancher Menschen ist ein Kreis mit Radius Null: das nennen sie dann Standpunkt.

Albert Einstein, 1879 - 1955

"..... a scholarly myth can spread 'like a computer virus' until it becomes accepted historical fact."

Helen Morales, TLS, May 15, 2009, p 11

"We are not afraid to put a book down". The most critical literary review .....

Times Literary Supplement. December 21 & 28, 2012.

click for conversation piece
From the Monamy & Walker conversation piece c 1730-33
About as authentic a Monamy painting as may ever be found.

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