Engagement of Frigates “Java” & “Constitution” [Plate 4]

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

    These coloured engravings are two of a set of four plates illustrating an engagement between the British shipHMS Java’, and the American frigate ‘Constitution’. The sails and rigging of both ships are in tatters. Plate 4 shows the ‘Java’ exploding and sinking, while the ‘Constitution’ sails away.

    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
    Daniell Havell was an aquatint engraver of topographical views, military and genre subjects after his contemporaries. He was born in Berkshire, the son of painter Thomas Havell and may also have been the nephew of the engraver Robert Havell senior (1769-1832), with whom he collaborated on a number of plates.
    According to inscriptions on the engraved versions of 1814, Pocock’s two watercolours showing an engagement between the British ship ‘HMS Java’, and the American frigate ‘Constitution’ were painted ‘from a Sketch by Lieut. Buchanan’. Lieutenant 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.
    Nicholas Pocock was born in Bristol; the son of a merchant. He went to sea at a young age and commanded ships belonging to Richard Champion, the first producer of Bristol porcelain. In 1780 he sent a picture to the Royal Academy too late to be included in the exhibition. Two years later, two landscapes and two marine paintings by Pocock were accepted by the Academy and thereafter he exhibited there every year until 1812. In 1789 Pocock moved to London, where he quickly won popularity with naval clients, recording their actions at sea. He briefly returned to sea with the Fleet in 1794. From then, Pocock found employment recording actions of the French Wars. He also produced six paintings illustrating ‘The Life of Nelson’ (published in 1809).
    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.
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  • Details
    Title
    Engagement of Frigates “Java” & “Constitution” [Plate 4]
    Date
    1 January 1814
    Medium
    Coloured engraving and aquatint
    Dimensions
    height: 35.0cm, width: 45.2cm
    Acquisition
    Purchased 1972
    GAC number
    9893