The burning of French ships at the Battle of La Hogue, 23 May 1692
The action at La Hogue in May 1692 was crucial in the wider context of the Battle of Barfleur. This was a naval battle of the War of the League of Augsburg, 1689-1697, fought between an Anglo-Dutch and a French fleet. It was not finally brought to a conclusion until 24 May in the Bay of La Hogue, when the French flagship 'Soleil Royal' as well as the 'Triomphant' and the 'Admirable' were burned by the English. This high horizon painting of the French coast looks southwards from Cape Barfleur. Through the use of continuous narrative, events over a long period are shown in this one image. On the right is the Bay of La Hogue with the French fleet aground. Four of their ships, are under attack from boats of the Allied fleet, including fire-boats, a fifth is waterlogged and on fire. In the centre foreground a small French fort is engaging an English two-decker, which is replying with her bow guns. She is approaching the fort and making for a group of six large French ships on the right close to the shore. Beyond her and to the left of the picture the English Vice-Admiral Sir George Rooke's ship 'Neptune', and another two-decker are engaging the French ships. The nearest of the French ships is a three-decker close to the shore with a large number of people swimming ashore. She is about to be set on fire by some of the English boats. The rest of the left background is filled with English ships including the 'Britannia'. Beyond the French ships on the right is a headland and an island possibly Marcouf, near which was a fort. Inside the island are six large French ships near a fort. On the left horizon is the English commander-in-chief, Edward Russell, in the 'Britannia'. The painting is contemporary in style with van de Velde the Elder and could be from his studio in the last year of his life. Such a painting may have been intended as a design for a tapestry or else to be painted in lieu of a tapestry to hang in a large room.
Willem van de Velde, the Younger
- Image reference: BHC0335
- National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
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