This wonderfully lively painting of a Royal Yacht in a strong breeze was brought out as one of a set of four stamps by the Jersey Post Office in 1974, when Monamy was still believed to have been born in Jersey. In about 1980 it was shown and discussed on a BBC TV programme devoted to philately, and described as an unusually attractive issue. The presenter remarked that the picture was by "a Flemish artist"; at which point Peter Monamy rotated in his grave.       32 x 26 sgd

For more on this painting, see here.


Small Ships in Motion

The ship on the stamp is a yacht, flying the Royal Standard, but many of these breezy scenes by Monamy feature a kaag or a smaalschip, often flying a Dutch flag. The sense of motion and exhilaration, recognisable by anyone who has sailed in a small yacht on a bright day, is distinctive in Monamy's paintings, and much beyond the range of many other C18th marine artists, perhaps especially Samuel Scott. As stated elsewhere, the essential difference between these two painters is that Monamy's pictures are dynamic, where Scott's are static.

It will be apparent from other pages on this website that Monamy as "follower", "imitator" or "copyist" of van de Velde is of minor interest to me. His significance lies in his uniqueness and originality, and to cite the great Nabokov: "What the artist perceives is, primarily, the difference between things. It is the vulgar who note their resemblance." Fear of vulgarity makes me look for the differences. However, the following series of related versions of the "kaag close-hauled" seems a good starting-point to address the complex question of what others call Monamy's dependence on, and what I call usage of, the great van de Velde. Sometimes the kaag is a smaalschip, but until I know the difference I'll use the terms interchangeably, beginning with the version below.

Scan above from Joel, Charles Brooking, 2000. p 27. Signed P.Monamy (in red) lower left. Another account gives measurements of 28½ x 38¼; and describes the composition as "smaalschip carrying cargo on a squally day. English Royal Yacht astern and frigate beating out of harbour."

Compare with another composition: here.

Above is a tiny (3 x 3) steel engraving from an unknown source, presumably a book, and perhaps dating early to mid 19th century. The inscription notes that the picture is by W.Vandenvelde Junr, dimensions 12¾ (vertical) x 14. Total reliance on inscriptions is not advisable.

28 x 44. Signed P.Monamy. Victoria & Albert Museum. See V & A website.

The scan right comes from Vol 2, page 814, of Michael Robinson's massive opus, The Paintings of the Willem van de Veldes. The picture, 14½ x 22, and of unknown provenance, appeared at a sale in 1989. Robinson's note remarks that it was "indistinctly signed and dated on a piece of wood in the water lower right, W v Velde Jonge 1677." This must have been one of the last comments that Robinson wrote, for the volume was published in 1990. One senses an undercurrent of doubt in the rest of his note, and I can't help recalling his remark to me that "signatures don't mean much". He also says that this is "an unusual subject for the Younger to have painted in 1677".

Without seeing all these versions side by side it is almost impossible to reach a firm conclusion. Perhaps chemical pigment analysis could settle the matter. Would a connoisseur, like Mr Walker for instance, know the difference?

The Property of a Gentleman. 14½ x 22. Phillips, 5 December, 1989. Lot 87. 50,000.

The above painting is seen again in the angled colour snap, right. Signed Monamy, it measures 20 x 25. This version is the closest to the one in Robinson's tome, but about one third as large again. To my mind it would be unusual for an imitation to enlarge on an original, but I may well be entirely wrong.

The kaag, or smaalschip, occurs in at least two more Monamy compositions, both signed, below. One (left) is of average size, but the other is even smaller than the one in the steel engraving.

see details of left-hand painting, below

The little piece, right, might justifiably be criticized for faulty proportion, since the large ship seems much too small when compared with the smaalschip. Monamy was not a kept and salaried servant, however, but a free and independent entrepreneur, and he survived on the price:quantity ratio of his output. The oeuvre is uneven, inevitably, but the range in quality between the finest and the most primitive of the paintings signed Monamy is so extreme that it seems impossible for them to be by the same hand. If the Younger really painted the original of these versions, forty or fifty years earlier, it certainly had some staying power. Perhaps it was hanging on the wall of Monamy's workshop; or perhaps he painted it himself, complete with fake signature, to see if Mr Walker would bite. Some artists are mischievous. A palette comparison would be decisive, since the Dutch artists are, in my experience, invariably darker, or have darkened with age. This is quite noticeable, even in black and white, in the Dictionary of Sea Painters.

see details below

Attributed to Francis Swaine

see details below

Fresh Breezes: Introduction

Fresh Breezes: Small Ships
one: the smaalschip/kaag   two: small ships   three: small ships and yachts
more on yachts
an english yacht head-reaching
for yacht calms see here and here

Fresh Breezes: Large Ships
wind right to left     wind left to right

calms, calms, calms
monamy website index

© Charles Harrison Wallace 2001, 2003, 2012, 2013
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