Lot 69


H.M. frigate 'Clyde' capturing the French frigate 'Vestale', 20th August 1799
oil on canvas
23 x 30cm

Estimate: £1,500 - £2,500
Hammer price: £1,400
Bidding ended. Lot has been sold.

At 8.30am on 20th August 1799, the 38-gun British frigate 'Clyde', commanded by Captain Charles Cunningham, was cruising near the Cordovan lighthouse, off Rochefort, when she sighted two ships to the south-west. Captain Cunningham gave chase immediately and, by 11.00am, had recognised both vessels as French. When the two enemy ships separated soon afterwards, Cunningham decided to go after the larger which, when he caught up with her at 1.30pm, revealed herself as the 36-gun frigate 'Vestale'. After a spirited action lasting almost two hours, during which the Frenchman put up a gallant fight despite sustaining serious damage to her sails and rigging as well as to her hull below the water-line, 'Vestale' finally struck her colours and surrendered.

Throughout the engagement however, the other enemy vessel, the 20-gun corvette 'Sagesse', stood off inshore and, apart from firing a few desultory rounds, did nothing to assist her consort. Once 'Vestale' surrendered, 'Sagesse' immediately crammed on more sail and fled the scene to take refuge in the Gironde estuary where Captain Cunningham, wisely, declined to follow.  In the event, the captured 'Vestale' was deemed too badly damaged to be assimilated into the Royal Navy but Captain Cunningham was nevertheless congratulated by his superiors for what was widely perceived as his classic 'textbook' action.

Francis Sartorius was the only member of the prolific Sartorius family of artists to undertake marine painting, his father being the renowned sporting painter John Nost Sartorius (1759-1828). It was said that Francis would have been far better known were it not for his premature death just as he was becoming established. He exhibited marine paintings at the Royal Academy from 1799-1808.

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