The 'Victory' Towed into Gibraltar by Clarkson Stanfield. 1854. Oil on panel, 46 x 70 cm. Collection: Guildhall Art Gallery, London. Reproduced courtesy of the City of London Corporation. [Click on image to enlarge it.]

According to Dr Pieter van der Merwe, General Editor and Greenwich Curator, Royal Museums Greenwich, and organizer of the 1979 Stanfield exhibition, this picture, a small version of the original at Somerleyton Hall, was painted primarily as a working copy for the engraving. See The Spectacular Career), pp. 163-64.

The 'Victory' Towed into Gibraltar demands comparison to The Fighting Temeraire tugged to her last Berth to be Broken up, which J. M. W. Turner painted about a decade and a half earlier. Both show famous British warships no longer under their own power but not, like so many works of both artists, shipwrecks. Turner's The Fighting Temeraire, which Thackeray proclaimed “as grand a painting as ever figured on the walls of any Academy, or came from the easel of any painter,” showed a famous ship from the age of sail being towed to final destruction by a steam-driven paddlewheeler, and it provided a powerful image of changing ages of technology and also of an ungrateful nation that permitting a sacred relic or symbol of its greatness to be sold for scrap. Stanfield’s painting in contrast shows the famous warship being towed by another sailing vessel against the backdrop of Gibraltar, a symbol of British power in the Mediterranean, and it appears to us occupying most of the picture’s center rather than, as in The Temeraire, a ghostly image behind the steam tug. — George P. Landow

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Created 25 February 2015