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IIIF Actions
Samuel Scott, 1701/2–1772

Vice Admiral Sir George Anson's Victory off Cape Finisterre

Former Title(s):

Admiral Anson's Action off Cape Finisterre

Oil on canvas
40 x 71 inches (101.6 x 180.3 cm)

Signed and dated, lower left: "S. Scott 1749"

Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
Paintings and Sculpture
Subject Terms:
battle | cannons | death | fighting | fire | flags | men-of-war | merchants | military art | navy | sea | ships | ships of the line | smoke | warships
Associated Places:
Cape Finisterre | Galicia | Spain
Not on view
IIIF Manifest:

During the War of the Austrian Succession (1740–48), a Pan-European conflict that pitted Britain and Austria against France, Prussia, and Spain, British naval forces were tasked with blocking communication between France and its colonies in North America. On May 3, 1747, a fleet under Admiral George Anson set upon a convoy of merchant ships under escort by French naval vessels off Cape Finisterre (northwest Spain) and captured six men-of-war and four merchant ships. While its detailed rendition of the ships is persuasive of the accuracy of the depiction, Samuel Scott presents a composite view of events that enable the recounting of a narrative of chase, attack, and surrender. The British ship in the center of the composition is Anson’s flagship, the Prince George, identifiable by the blue ensign of Vice Admiral of the Blue flying at its fore-topmast. At 2 pm on the day of the battle, the Prince George signaled the fleet to “chace to the S.W.” by flying the red, white, and blue flag visible below the blue ensign. The red signal flag at the mainmast head communicated the order, given at 3 pm, to attack without regard for the line of battle. The Prince George itself joined the action only just in time to receive the surrender of the Invincible, seen to the right of Prince George with its mainmast shattered and falling, its crew in disarray; the rest of the French ships surrendered between 6 and 7 pm.

Gallery label for Spreading Canvas - Eighteenth-Century British Marine Painting (Yale Center for British Art, 2016-09-09 - 2016-12-04)

The War of the Austrian Succession (1740–48) ended a period of peace for Britain and heralded a series of AngloFrench imperial wars that lasted into the early nineteenth century. In the 1740s the British navy sought to pressure France’s empire in North America by harassing Atlantic shipping lanes. On May 3, 1747, Sir George Anson wiped out an entire French fleet protecting French merchant ships at the Battle of Cape Finisterre in the Bay of Biscay. In the center, Anson’s flagship, the Prince George, is firing a broadside into the French ship Invincible. Samuel Scott painted several versions of this picture for members of Anson’s family; this one was probably commissioned by Lady Anson to hang seat at Shugborough Hall, the Anson family’s country seat in Staffordshire. It retains its original “trophy frame” likely made by Isaac Gosset, carved with nautical ornament, including the head of Neptune and instruments of navigation.

Gallery label for installation of YCBA collection, 2016

Spreading Canvas - Eighteenth - Century British Marine Painting (Yale Center for British Art, 2016-09-09 - 2016-12-04) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition] [Exhibition Description]

An Exhibition of Paintings and Drawings by Samuel Scott, c. 1702-1772, The Guildhall Art Gallery, London, 1955, p. 6, cat. 5, NJ18 Sco837 G85 [ORBIS]

Laura Beach, Spreading Canvas : Eighteenth-Centry British Marine Painting, Antiques and the Arts Weekly, vol. 48, Bee Publishing Company, Newtown, November 4, 2016, p. 1C, 30, Vertical File V 2718 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Malcolm Cormack, Concise Catalogue of Paintings in the Yale Center for British Art, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 1985, pp. 198-199, N590.2 A83 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Malcolm Cormack, Seascapes : Yale Center for British Art., , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 1977, p. [6], no. 9, V 1909 (YCBA) Vertical File [YCBA]

Elizabeth Einberg, The age of Hogarth, British painters born 1675-1709 , vol. 2, Tate Gallery, London, 1988, pp. 184-187, fig. 48, ND466 T38 1988 + OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

English Taste in the Eighteenth Century from Baroque to Neo-Classic, Winter Exhibition, 1955-1956, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1955, p. 65, cat. 195, N6766 E541 (YCBA) Alason Availlable on Microfiche [Fiche B194 (YCBA)] [YCBA]

Exhibition of British art, c. 1000-1860 : full catalogue [of the Winter Exhibition held on January 6-March 10, 1934]., , , Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1934, p. 165, cat. 414, N6761 L65 (YCBA) Also available on line [Royal Academy] and on mictofiche [B 162 (YCBA)] [YCBA]

Historical Portraits and Valuable Pictures, Chiefly by Old Masters, Christie's, Knoedler Gallery, London, June 30, 1888, p. 6, Lot 22, Fiche B51 [ORBIS]

Eleanor Hughes, Spreading Canvas : Eighteenth-Century British Marine Painting, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 2016, p. 182, 188-189, cat. 53, ND 1373.G74 S67 2016 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Cecil King, British Marine Painters, Connoisseur, 106, London, October 1940, p. 139, pl. 8, N1 +C75 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Richard Kingzett, Catalogue of the Works of Samuel Scott, Volume of the Walpole Society, vol. 48, Walpole Society, Oxford, 1982, pp. 33-34, 34-35, B., N12 W35 A1 48+ (YCBA) [YCBA]

Royal Naval Exhibition, Official Catalogue and guide, W. P. Griffith, London, 1891, pp. 26, 84, no. 329, https://archive.org/details/officialcatalogu00royarich http://www.openlibrary.org/books/OL7209116M [Website]

Samuel Scott Bicentenary, Paintings, Drawings and Engravings, The Guildhall Art Gallery, London, 1972, p. 20, cat. 29, NJ18 Sco837 +G854 (YCBA) [YCBA]

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