Queen Victoria’s Birthday
Italian School, circa 1840
‘Saluto Dato In Onor’ Del Giorno Onomastico di Sua Maesta La Regina Vittoria’
Inscribed as title
Pencil, pen, black ink, grey wash, watercolour and bodycolour
Dimensions: 18 x 25in. (46 x 63.5cm.)
Russian warships were regularly cruising the eastern Mediterranean in order to observe British activity off Egypt, not only after the completion of the Suez Canal but long before it as well. Thus, we believe, the very fact that a Russian vessel is depicted indicates that the location is most likely to be the Mediterranean coast of Syria and the ancient Arabia Petrae (modern Lebanon and Israel). The French had a strong presence on that coast in the 19th century and the topography of the fortified city sitting atop a sheer cliff is strikingly similar to the old city of Joppa (or Jaffa), near the modern Tel Aviv in Israel. It cannot, of course, be proved conclusively but we believe Joppa is the only possible location given the evidence contained within the watercolour.
As to the identity of the British vessel, she would seem to be the 74-gun H.M.S. Sultan, built at Deptford, launched in 1807 and finally broken up – after a long career – at Portsmouth in 1864.
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