William Frederick Mitchell - HMS Victoria / HMS Centurion / HMS Drake / HMS Ramillies
A set of four watercolours of three late Victorian and Edwardian Royal Navy battleships and one cruiser, all bearing dates that correspond with John Jellicoe's service record suggesting that the portraits were painted for him in 1904. Jellicoe was promoted Commander in 1891 and Captain in 1897 during an illustrious career in which he would famously command the Grand Fleet at Jutland in 1916, and serve as first sea lord from December 1916 until Christmas 1917.
Watercolours with white bodycolour, each titled, signed and dated 1904
"Victoria 1893". Victoria class battleship launched in 1887 at Elswick yard. Commander Jellicoe joined the ship on 1st April 1893, but she was sunk with the loss of many hands following an accidental collision near Tripoli on 22 June 1893.
"Ramillies". Royal Sovereign class battleship launched in 1892 on the Clyde. Jellicoe was appointed as Commander on 13 August 1893, leaving on 15 December 1896. Jellicoe would recall his time on Ramillies with particular affection.
"Centurion 1897-1901". Centurion class battleship launched in 1892 at Portsmouth. Now promoted to Captain, Jellicoe took command of HMS Centurion on 31 December 1897 and was seriously wounded during the Boxer Rebellion. The ship returned to Britain and was paid off on 19 September 1901.
"Drake 1903-1904". Drake class armoured cruiser launched in 1901 at Pembroke Dock. Jellicoe was appointed as Commander on 12 August 1903, being recalled to the Admiralty on 14 November 1904.
William Frederick Mitchell (1845-1914) was born at Calshot near Southampton. Scarlet fever at a young age caused him to be both deaf and mute but he was taught to speak by his father, an HM coastguard stationed at Calshot Castle.
He specialised in finely executed ship portraits which were usually commissioned by serving naval officers. Mitchell had an arrangement with the bookshop and publishers J. Griffin and Co., located on The Hard, Portsmouth, who accepted commissions on his behalf. He was able to obtain a superb effect with his knowledge of ships and accurate draughtsmanship, numbering all of his works consecutively in the lower corner.
This fine set of four are consecutively numbered 2360-2363 and were certainly made for the same officer who we believe was most likely John Jellicoe.
Provenance: Formerly in the possession of Rear-Admiral David Cooke (1955-2014), submariner and keen naval historian with a particular interest in Jellicoe.