Engagement of Frigates “Java” & “Constitution” [Plate 2]
Engraving and aquatint1 January 1814
About the work
Interpretation about this artwork is under review
The Government Art Collection recognises its responsibility to artists, colleagues and all our audiences to represent the diversity of the UK and to embed anti-racist and equitable practices throughout our work. We are taking action to address inequality in the Collection and its interpretation.
These coloured engravings are two of a set of four plates illustrating an engagement between the British ship ‘HMS Java’, and the American frigate ‘Constitution’. In Plate 2, ‘HMS Java’ is seriously damaged, with only one surviving mast. The sails and rigging of both ships are in tatters.
In 1814, marine painter Nicholas Pocock exhibited original watercolours for all four of the prints for this series at the Royal Watercolour Society in London. Explanatory text accompanied the watercolours and this is also included below the images on the printed versions. According to inscriptions on the printed versions, Pocock’s watercolours were painted ‘from a Sketch by Lieut. Buchanan’. Buchanan may have been a member of the crew aboard the ‘Java’ at the time of the battle, who made record sketches of the events.
About the artist
Robert Havell senior, son of artist and publisher Daniel Havell, was born in Reading but moved to London as a child. After Robert launched his career, father and son collaborated on illustrations for Henry Salt’s ‘Twenty Four Views Taken in St. Helena’ (1809–10). However, the partnership was short-lived and Robert later established himself at premises in Fitzrovia. He married Lydia Miller Phillips and had a son, Robert junior. Robert junior and his father formed the firm of R. Havell & Son, working on numerous projects including ‘Birds of America’ for John James Audubon. The scale of this project led them to employ 50 additional staff and move to larger premises in Oxford Street. Robert senior died a year after the company expansion.