Watercolour of Portsmouth Harbour from Gosport by Edward Duncan
Watercolour of Portsmouth Harbour from Gosport by Edward Duncan

Watercolour of Portsmouth Harbour from Gosport by Edward Duncan

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Edward Duncan RWS (1803-1882)
Portsmouth Harbour
Depicting the newly launched HMS Duke of Wellington (left), the semaphore tower in Portsmouth Dockyard (cente), the Royal Yacht and the tower of Portsmouth Cathedral (centre-right), and HMS Victory on the right

Signed and dated 1853
Framed and glazed
Overall size including frame: 43.8 cm x 63.7 cm

Depicting the harbour at the time of the Fleet Review of 11th August 1853 which drew huge numbers of onlookers to the harbour. The Morning Post reported that the many boarding houses in Gosport and Portsmouth were entirely full and spectators were forced to sleep on the benches along the piers. The following morning "every tub that could hoist a sail was out and manned at daybreak...the sea was literally studded with yachts and sailing boats of all kinds, careering here and there in every direction among the fleet". The royal yacht carried Queen Victoria and Prince Albert who boarded the Duke of Wellington at quarter past eleven and were received by Admiral Sir Thomas Cochrane, famed for his daring exploits in the Napoleonic Wars. Having spent an hour aboard, the royal party re-boarded the Royal Yacht and proceeded to Spithead in order to inspect the fleet and observe a mock battle.

The royal yacht can here be seen steaming away from Duke of Wellington, whose yard-arms are swarmed with many sailors as the huge canvas sails are lowered as she weighs anchor to follow the royal party out of the harbour.

Edward Duncan was born in London and originally trained as an engraver. It was his collaboration with the painter William John Huggins that turned him towards marine subjects. He adopted watercolour as his principal medium and in 1849 became a member of the Society of Painters in watercolours. An obituary described him as "a very industrious man. Hardly in England a drawing room owned by any one of taste has not any drawings of his … he was a very liberal man too; kept an open house, a dinner party weekly; and his billiard room was open to all comers."

This fine watercolour is the original work from which a well known engraving was made