Photo credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Conservation work on this painting has revealed a signature/inscription on a piece of timber lower centre which appears to be 'C Pocock VV'. The 'Pocock' is pretty clear, the initial a little less so and might be G, and the VV – or possibly W but probably not – remains to be explained,though I wonder if it might be 'veni, vidit' ('he came, he saw', as per Julius Caesar's 'veni, vidi, vici).
I have found no obvious trace of a late seventeenth-century artist called Pocock but should it strike a bell elsewhere it would be useful to know. The picture is in the general manner of Isaac Sailmaker: i.e. sub-van de Velde imported Dutch influence, so possibly someone schooled with Sailmaker or someone similar like the Knyffs.
This discussion is now closed. The inscription and description fields on Art UK have been updated, but the artist remains obscure. The unclear inscription has been recorded as ‘C. Pocock IVV (?)’.
Thank you to everyone who contributed to the discussion. To anyone viewing this discussion for the first time, please see below for all the comments that led to this conclusion.
Is there any chance Pieter that we might see this inscription in high resolution, please?
The National Maritime Museum are quite clear that although the painting depicts an event in 1690, they are of the opinion that it was not painted until around 1702 - 1710, see http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/11822.html
This appears to be to early for Nicholas Pocock Bristol 1740-1821. His father was also a mariner and also called Nicholas.
The family are found in Bristol and Cornish records. I think if someone as access to these records we may find a family member with the initial C?
I'm at the NMM and the entry you see online is as I updated it in July to include the now-discovered inscription/ signature, of which I will try and post an image soon. I have not altered the estimated 1702-10 date (though that is no more than a pre-existing estimate) but I'm assuming whoever painted the work probably operated in roughly the 1690s-1710s range at least. There are no known artist antecedents in the family of Nicholas Pocock (1740-1821), but the surname is fairly common so no reason to assume a connection with him, thoough- if so -clearly too distant and forgotten to have been recorded.
Genealogically, C17th/early 18th Pococke(s) seem to be mainly in Somerset and Berkshire (the family of Admiral Sir George C, b.1706, whose father Thomas was a naval chaplain - see http://bit.ly/2cBFlxt ). There are a few called Charles, as well as George and Gabriel, but there is nothing I can see to associate any of them with painting, or with N.Ireland, or with the navy.
The only slightly intriguing reference I have found is to a letter of August 1694 in Cheshire Record Office from 'Charles Pococke, London', to Samuel Finney of Fulshaw Hall and Cheatham (Lancs). Unfortunately the catalogue entry gives no hint of the letter's content - see http://bit.ly/2cIfauk . Finney made his fortune in the Barbadoes, but (according to Cheshire R.O.'s catalogue notes) after his return to England and purchase of an estate, he in 1688 "raised a troop of horse in support of William of Orange". He was clearly a trusted Williamite - he is recorded elsewhere as having been Receiver-General for Cheshire of the first land tax levied by Wm & Mary in 1688/9, and a commissioner there and in Lancs for collecting subsequent taxes "for carrying on the war against France with vigour". He subsequently moved, along with all his family, to America with William Penn.
The Williamite connection is probably pure coincidence, but I would love to know what it is that letter...
Intriguing Osmund, be it connected or not, though I agree about the geographical prevalence of the name: Nicholas P's son, Isaac (d. 1835)
writing in the early 1830s to his brother Wiliiam Innes (and both painters, though the latter better known as a dramatist) makes a reference to 'some of those other Pocock down in the lower part of Berkshire' as namesakes they knew of but had no direct connection with. They by then lived in Berkshire themselves though not born there.
Is that El Morro Castle "The ground plan of the fort has the shape of an irregular polygon as it is adapted to the shape of the rocks it was built on."
If it is Havana then it could be after 1762 (Admiral Sir George Pocock, Battle of Havana). However, Admiral Pocock could be a coincidence because the 'English Red Ensign Flag' seems to have been used by English merchantmen before 1707.
It does look like El Morro Castle, Havana before the lighthouse. Any idea where else it could be?
I'm afraid there is some confusion here: this image is undoubtedly of Carrickfergus in Ireland, closely based on a print from Greenvile Collins's 'Great Britain's Coasting Pilot' of 1693. The issue is simply to know who was the 'Pocock' (initial C or perhaps G) who appears to have signed it. That there were both a later Admiral and a later painter of the same family name is just an unlinked coincidence at present.
Seeyam, I don't think the place is in doubt (though there's a slight uncertainty as to the exact stage of the 1690 landing being shown) - it is Carrickfergus near Belfast in Northern Ireland. Click on 'Open on collection website' to the right of the image for lots more information. There's a late 18th/early 19th drawing by a visiting Frenchman of pretty much the same view in the Louvre Collection here: http://bit.ly/2cVEdpO
The Norman castle still stands today, and in pretty good condition.
Pieter, is there any chance of the high res detail of the signature?
Sorry: this one dropped through the cracks between other things: I'll see if we can provide.
Our Picture Library have kindly said (13 July) that they will a hi-res detail but it may take a week plus, owing to current workload.
For what it is worth, Katy Barrett asked me about this a few years ago. Many pictures of this subject were offered at London auctions in the 1690s by dealers - 18 in 1690-1 alone - often attributed to Sailmaker or Vandervelde, whose name was frequently taken in vain in salerooms then. At the time of looking (2014) the little inscription didn't look like "Pocock" - guesses were in the area of ‘Jacuet’ or ‘Focuet' or 'facuet' or a word starting 'fac' or 'fec' (I did not read the initial letter as being capitalised).
I cannot comment on the artist but I would like to mention that the date of the painting must be after 1707 when the act of Union between England and Scotland came into being. The Union Flags are very clear. But is seems odd that the scene depicts an event in 1690 but the artist was not concerned about this anachronism.
Charles, I don't think that is right. The Act of Union was not until 1707; but following the ascent of King James I/VI to the English throne the first version of the Union Flag, specifically for use at sea, was introduced by this proclamation dated 12 April 1606:
"All our subjects in this our isle and kingdom of Great Britain and the members thereof, shall bear in their main top the red cross commonly called St George's Cross and the white cross commonly called St. Andrew's Cross joined together according to a form made by our heralds and sent to our Admiral to be published to our said subjects."
The Collection website (link top right of this page) discusses the date of the painting with reference to the Royal Standards shown, but I don't think the Union Flag helps with it.
Thanks Osmund. I stand corrected. I had to check it out on the flag institute website and am now wiser.
I've prompted our Picture Library again to supply a detail of the signature/inscription: sorry for the delay but I forgot to do so earlier. The 1606-1801 Union flags are fine: the addition of the Irish St Patrick red saltire cross created the modern version in the latter year. 1707 is when the 1606 Union formally replaced the English St George cross in the red ensign (and the pre 1707 Scottish red-ensign equivalent with the St Andrew in the upper canton, though only rarely seen in marine pictures).
To be honest, Charles, I was very far from sure about this myself, and had to check - Google makes instant 'experts' of us all. The only reason I felt certain it wasn't right is that Pieter (who really is an expert) is the man who wrote the analysis of the evidence - vexillological** and other - in the painting on the Collection website, and I knew he wouldn't have missed such a clue.
(**Had to look that up too!)
As Pieter van der Merwe authoritatively states above, the scene is undoubtedly of Carrickfergus and its castle, as can be shown by way of the attached composite of images, of the print from the 1693 edition Greenvile Collins' 'Great Britain's Coasting Pilot' and the (more likely 18th century) painting under consideration in this discussion. Additionally, auction results show that a similar painting (oil on canvas, 14.3 x 18 inches, circle of Willem van der Hagen (auctioneers attribution)), (attached), though more primitive in style, was sold in 2004.
Amusingly, a comparison of the three images shows the landing of William III as being an varyingly elaborate affair, with more ships, boats and men featuring in each different portrayal. Although the creative sequence in not known, as each image is considered the event takes on a Trump-ian big-bigger-biggest visual exaggeration. Not much changes over time in the workings of propaganda!
Ultimately, the real question here is 'Who is C. or G. Pocock?', and I think that we are all waiting for that long-overdue hi-res detail of the signature to further this particular investigation.
Pieter, I am puzzled by one thing in your flag analysis on the RMG website. Though it's too small in the image to be sure, I assume that the Royal Arms on the two flags have no Nassau escutcheon in the middle (which would be correct for William III after Q. Mary's death [i.e. 1694-1702], but not before).
But if so, surely the arms would be correct for Queen Anne herself between 1702 & 1707 (when they changed after the Act of Union), not just for the Lord High Admiral under her? This would make it an entirely understandable error for the artist to have made - he just used the Royal Arms that were current when he was painting, unaware that they had been different at the time of the event 12-17 years previously. See http://bit.ly/2fUrGos
This hypothesis removes any need to introduce the (rather less likely, I feel) possibility of the scene showing Prince George of Denmark: Mr Pococke (if he) was indeed showing the King's landing, as one would expect. It also narrows down the painting's date range slightly to 1702-07, as supported by the pre-Union design of the red ensigns.
An interesting point Osmund: I'll have a closer look, though as you suggest when it comes to precisely accurate details on complex flags in images like this painters are not always 'upon oath'! And thanks Kieran for the Collins detail which I'd not seen personally: the record that it was the source long predates me, but I'll expand a little therefrom in the database. Two spellings in a few lines (out of something like 20-plus recorded) of Sir Cloudesley Shovell/ Chouell is a nice touch: he is better known now for his sticky end (in the wreck of the 'Association', 1707) and, at least to a modern eye and for such a stalwart fellow, a singularly effete Westminster Abbey monument by Grinling Gibbons. A few pages into Dava Sobel's celebrated 1995 book 'Longitude' (if memory serves aright) she has him summarily hanging a seaman at the yardarm, or some such nonsense, for expressing a fear they were heading into danger. That's the point I put it down and only keep as a ground-breaking example of brilliant 'cut-and-paste' publishing pocket-packaging.
Pieter, can you set out the provenance of this painting? How and when did it come into your collection?
Additionally, are there any inscription, marks or other items on the rear of the frame and canvas that might also help to determine its history?
The picture was presented by our founding benefactor, Sir James Caird, in July 1938 identified as the 1662 departure of Catherine of Braganza to marry Charles II from Belem Castle, in the Tagus (improbable as that now sounds). The database record does not give a source (TBC). I have attached a JPG image, currently the best available but not post-conservation, which has clarified that it appears to read 'C. Pocock . V V -' (or possibly G for the initial and W at the end). I'm afraid its not going to be possible to get a better one in short order. What the suffix might mean I can't think.
Pieter, have you any idea how long "short order" might be? Without a clearer post-conservation image, I doubt that this discussion can move much further.
The conservation must have changed things considerably, Pieter. 'Pocock' I can sort of imagine, but nothing else, however much I tweak it. In that state I can see why JS (post above) saw it as ‘Jacuet', ‘Focuet', 'facuet' or something akin. Frustrating if there's little immediate prospect of seeing it as is...oh well.
Pieter, in 2011 John Mitchell of Avery Row, London, sold a painting entitled 'The Fresh Breeze: The Dutch ship 'T Wapen van Utrecht' running before the wind, with other shipping'. It was painted by Willem van de Velde the Younger (Leiden, 1633 - London, 1707). It was an oil on canvas, signed with the initials WVV on driftwood lower right. In 2010, a drawing entitled "Trois navires par mer agitée (Three ships in a Rough Sea)' by the same artist was sold by Artcurial in Paris, signed with the initials 'WVV'. Also in 2010, Sotheby's sold 'An English Ship Close-hauled in a Strong Breeze with a Royal Yacht in the Wind' by him, signed with the initials 'W.V.V J' at lower right on a piece of wood (the J standing for the Dutch word Jonge (Young). A Google search for "Willem Van de Velde + WVV" shows that he initialed several other oils and drawings with 'WVV' on spars, mooring posts, boat sides and piers, amongst other places. A comparison of painting styles might discount this suggestion, but perhaps our discussion piece is a painting by him, which might explain the perceived presence of a W or a VV on the piece of driftwood. The time period is certainly right. However, without a better image of the signature, this is just a humble suggestion.
Any chance it is C Pocock After VV ? i.e. a later amateur copy of an earlier Van de Velde.
Out of interest, Pieter, is the whereabouts known of a painting illustrated on p.115 of Frank Cockett's 'Early Sea Painters', an upright version of this same subject in a cartouche, and supposedly 'signed by W. van der Hagen'? It is credited to the NMM but I can't find it in the RMG online collections. Not sure it will help us with this 'Pocock' picture anyway!
Dealing with points as we go: (1) If I can get to the store I will see if I can take a better image of the signature-but no timetable in view: regrettably for some reason a post-conservation shot was not taken before it went back ( tut-tut!!). (2) The 'facuet' etc was also my earlier attempt to decipher but I don't believe it now. (3) WVV is certainly found as a van de Velde signature, and if it is 'V V' after the name here I suppose it might indicate the signatory's affiliation to the late van de Velde studio (since we really don't know firmly who was in it apart from Cornelis v de V, with probably Johan and possibly Willem van der Hagen) though I've not seen such a 'tag' before. I also wondered about it being a case of the artist 'came and saw' (' Veni, Vidit') - but that's probably just flying a kite since the composition is certainly based on Greenvile Collins's small print in his 'Coasting Pilot' (1693): Collins himself is also matephorically present in the image, since he was captain of the 'Mary' yacht which brought William III over to Carrickfergus. Prince George was also there supporting William as his bro-in-law and in the image is in the 'Henrietta' behind, flying Union at the main though he was not the Admiral of the Fleet, which this would normally indicate, so that's a bit of a puzzle too (4) The Willem van der Hagen shown in Frank Cockett's book belongs to the Ulster Museum: the credit to NMM is probably just a slip. See
Pieter, if the VV does in fact come after a surname, it might be worth considering the following. On page 632 of John Gerrard's 'Siglarium Romanum' (1792) (which is an extraordinary dictionary of Latin abbreviations), the entry for VV (and V. V. etc...), suggests a number of possibilities for the presence of the letters on the piece of driftwood in this picture. The most interesting option for the meaning is 'Ut Voverat', which roughly translates as "as vowed" or "as dedicated". "Ut voverat donut debit" essentially means "dedicated, as a gift to". With an examination of the post-conservation inscription, perhaps other letters will be revealed as a Latin abbreviation of a similar style of dedication.
That deserves a prize for 'arcane source of the week': entirely new to me but well worth knowing for other applications, even if it gets us no further here given I'm fairly sure there's nothing else following, whatever it means: but will check...
I just sit here and learn, cope with me headache and get lost in wonder...bless you all
Pieter, has there been any update on the availability of a higher-resolution image of the driftwood and its inscription?
There is no early prospect of putting this in the NMM photo studio until sometime next year, after a major storage move. I attach an image I took this afternoon, which is a bit better than the previous I-phone one, and I dont think even a studio shot is going to improve on it much, once one starts enlarging. I am sure the surname is 'Pocock' whatever the prior initial (C or G) and the meaning of the 'V.V' after.
Many thanks Pieter for the attachment, although I still do look forward to a hi-resolution version, whenever there is an opportune moment to send it.
Pieter, the attachment you referred to (15/12/2017) isn't in our database and has disappeared from this discussion. Do you still have it please? I have asked again for a closeup high-res image.
I think the first one below is Pieter's original attachment. The second is I think a smaller-size (and contrast-tweaked) copy I made at the time because Pieter's was rather blurred and hard to make out at full size.
Thanks Osmund: looking at your 'tweaked' version, I wonder if it actually reads 'C Pocock and[?] VVelde'. The quality of the shipping doesn't strike me as Willem the Younger himself but it might be a case of a studio assistant crediting practical advice of his master and the odd touch. Just a thought and I'll see what can be done re a better image though I don't think it will greatly help.
So I am looking at the signature on my desktop and it's a bit blurred.But on my android tablet with hi res screen it is much clearer. I see S.O.S in front of Pocock--- and is that actually a P ?? Looking at 17th century caligraphy fonts( online :-) ) it could be an S ???
The beginning is unclear though I think it is a 'P', judging that on its own. What is clear is the 'ocock', so if not a 'P' one has to think of alternatives spelt that way: 'Grocock' is the only other one I can recall seeing. Its not that and at the moment its a one-off: what we need is other instances.
It is almost two years since my own request for a hi-res photograph of the signature was made. It will be to the detriment of the whole Art Detective project, and to contributors' enthusiasm for attempting to resolve all of its wonder-filled challenges, if institutions do not respond promptly to such appeals. Much time speculating about the lettering on a grainy piece of marine debris could be saved through the presentation of a clear and detailed image.
A member of the Images team at the collection has replied this morning:
'Thanks for your email and for your call on Friday. I just wanted to let you know that I am in contact with my colleagues in the Collections Access team, about organising a photograph to be taken of the section of wood in the front centre of the painting. I am waiting to hear back from them but wanted to let you know your enquiry is being looked into. Will be in touch shortly to let you know their answer.'
I suppose it's merely a coincidence, but it seems somewhat curious that the rather unusual name "Pocock" is also the surname of the well known marine painter Nicholas Pocock (1740-1821).
That painter was referenced by William Milburn at the very beginning of this discussion in 2016, the conclusion being reached that if the painting was in any way contemporary with the events, it would be too early to have been painted by him.
Thank you to the collection for this update on the situation with this image.
A member of staff has attempted to photograph the painting in the stores, using one of its studio cameras, but as the surface is so dark (especially the area with the signature), the results have been too poor to be helpful. He advises having the painting taken into the studio and photographed properly with the necessary lighting etc., the organisation of which will be discussed in the New Year. The Picture Library is now closed until the 6th January, but they hope to be able to supply the detail we require.
The National Maritime Museum has confirmed that the signature will be photographed in high resolution for us as soon as possible.
Many thanks to Scarlet Faro at the National Maritime Museum Picture Library for the attached image of the signature.
Amen to that: much clearer than previous snaps, but still a puzzle:
'C [or perhaps G] Pocock - I [or J] V V'.
And one needs to remember that it essentially copies a cartouche engraving on a Greenvile Collins chart, Collins being at the event as already mentioned above.
I'm inclined to recommend we close this discussion unless anyone is really on the way to getting further forward. The mysterious 'C. Pocock' [?] is already on the NMM database entry, which I'll slightly adjust now we have a good image of the equally foxing 'I V V' ending of the inscription. As already covered, the picture is a 'van de Velde-style' version of of an engraved cartouche in Greenvile Collins's 'Coasting Pilot' of 1693, though their exact relation beyond being similar views is not clear. Who Pocock was is for future discovery but speculative attempts to connect him with Nicholas (1740-1821) or anyone else of the name that we know of are red herrings without proof being supplied.