Admiral Sir John Duckworth Forcing Pass through Dardanelles, 1807

  • About the work
    Country: UK
    City: London
    Place: Government Art Collection

    In this chaotic scene, wooden fragments of ships float in the water, along with several people, some of whom cling to the wreckage. The painting glows with a warm, pink light from canon fire, fires blazing on ships and in particular from the large explosion seen to the left of the composition. Smaller boats are crammed with the crew of the larger ships, who have evacuated their damaged vessels.

    This painting shows Sir John Duckworth forcing his passage through Dardanelles, while facing strong Turkish resistance. Both Turkish and British ships are being destroyed in the chaotic battle and the crews, forced to abandon their ships, are seen fleeing in smaller boats. The explosion, coming from behind rocks to the left of the composition, may refer to ‘HMS Ajax’, which caught fire on 14 February, ran aground and blew up the following day, before the fleet entered the strait.

  • About the artist
    Philip James de Loutherbourg, was born in Germany, the son of a miniaturist and engraver. The family moved to Paris in 1755 where he studied with Carle Van Loo and Jean-Georges Wille, before entering the studio of François Joseph Casanova. He left Paris in 1768 to travel through France, Switzerland and the Rhineland. In 1771 he arrived in London, where David Garrick gave him control of the scenery at Drury Lane Theatre. He remained at the theatre when Sheridan took over. In 1781, he became a member of the Royal Academy. He travelled throughout the UK on sketching tours and began painting naval victories in the 1790s. In 1807 he was made Historical Painter to the Duke of Gloucester. He died in Hammersmith, aged 71.
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  • Details
    Admiral Sir John Duckworth Forcing Pass through Dardanelles, 1807
    Oil on panel
    height: 60.80 cm, width: 82.60 cm
    Purchased from Christie's, 29 April 1949
    With M. Newman Limited; by whom sold through Christie's, London, on 29 April 1949 (Lot 155), for £42.0.0; from which sale purchased by Richard Walker on behalf of the Ministry of Works
    GAC number