The Temeraire's Last Journey
Oil on canvas 51 x 30.5cm
Few ships have been immortalised in art more than HMS Temeraire, a 98-gun veteran of the Battle of Trafalgar and iconic subject of JMW Turner's memorable
painting. Although one of the finest paintings ever produced, it is known that Turner's version of this magnificent old ship's voyage to the breaker's yard
is pure whimsy, composed to inspire pride and sentiment in equal parts.
This painting is, perhaps, a more truthful rendering of the same scene. Here, the mighty Temeraire is reduced to a floating hulk, stripped of her masts, bowsprit
and rigging, her bitumen-coated hull gutted of anything useful.
It is 7.30am on 5th September 1838. As the tide is judged to be just right, the steam tugs Sampson and Newcastle, piloted by William Scott and a crew of 25, take
up the strain of the Temeraire's 2,121 tons to begin the slow journey from Sheerness to Rotherhithe, where she will be slowly taken to pieces at the yard of John
Beatson. Whilst HMS Victory stands today in all her magnificence at Portsmouth, barely a trace of the ship that came to her rescue at Trafalgar exists.