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The Rugendas Letters:
Johann Moritz Rugendas’
First Voyage to Brazil
“ One of the decisive battles in the world ”
and at the same time
one of Benjamin West’s main works
The Naval Battle at La Hogue
as the Start of England’s Supremacy on the Oceans
West, Benjamin (Springfield, Pennsylvania, 1738 – London 1820). The Battle at La Hogue. In the foreground several boats and sloops, partly led into battle or engaged in the fight man against man, partly also rescuing less fortunate comrades – friend or foe – though. At the left almost completely engulfed in smoke French head with crowned lion, at right towering high the stern gallery of a French ship of the line obviously successfully grappled. In the medium distance the stern parts of three French ships of the line whose masts and sails are visible only in parts in the general vapor of smoke, among these the Soleil Royal of the French commander, count Anne Hilarion de Tourville. On the sea countless further richly occupied boats, on the shore camp and troops. Engraving after William Woollett (Maidstone, Kent, 1735 – London 1785) at Klauber in Augsburg + St. Petersburg. Late 18th/early 19th century. Inscribed: Painted by B. West, Historical Painter to His Majesty. / is sold in augsburg at brothers Klauber. / is Sold in S. Petersburg at I. S. Klauber., otherwise as above and below resp. 49 x 62.1 cm.
Nagler XXI, 316 ff. (West; “Another copy [of the 1781 etching by Woollett] has the address: Is sold in Augsburg by brothers Klauber”) + XXII, 75 ff. (Woollett 4: “S. J. Glauber [sic!] has copied the Battle at La Hogue very beautifully”); Thieme-Becker XXXV, 438 ff. (West) + XXXVI, 250 (Woollett).
Marvelous impression of very fine vibrant chiaroscuro
on buff paper. – Isolated mostly only smaller tears in the white margin above and below 5.8, laterally 9.5 cm wide, of which only one on the right extends to the platemark also broken here on c. 10 cm, all backed acid-freely. Two traces of creasing reaching only yet faintly into the (white) part of the caption.
“ To the Right Honourable the Lord Grosvenor
By his Lordships most obliged and most obedient humble Servants – Benjamin West and William Woollett. ”
Along with The Death of General Wolfe and The Battle of Boyne as pendant to the present one then there were “three famous pictures known by excellent engravings … in the Grosvenor Gallery which belongs to the Marquis of Westminster” (Nagler).
West was “the founder of the modern realistic historic picture. By the use of the historic uniforms in the central figure of the general (Wolfe in the battle of Quebec) and his soldiers W. has created by
this work , considered as a sensation by his generation ,
the prototype of the contemporary military picture far ahead of the French” (Thieme-Becker).
Ignaz Sebastian Klauber (Augsburg 1753 – St. Petersburg 1817) “was at first pupil of his father (Joseph Sebastian K., together with his brother Johann Baptist founder of the Klauber publishing house), for further education he then went … to J. G. Wille to Paris where he staid about 1781-1790 … returned to Augsburg he worked here till about 1795 … followed (1796) a call to St. Petersburg as director of the engraver class of the Academy. He deserved well of the raise of this highly neglected department and exercised such a stimulating influence on the Russian art of engraving that it rose to a height as never before … 1805 K. became curator of the print room of the Hermitage … K. is justly esteemed as able engraver in Wille’s manner. His technical routine is remarkable” (Thieme-Becker). How far Ignaz Sebastian had an active part in the execution of the present work has to be left aside. Nagler and Thieme-Becker list as by his hand beside some illustrations almost exclusively portraits. On the other hand both his brother Joseph Xaver as likewise later the son of that, Joseph Anton, who continued the publishing house in Augsburg, were active themselves as engravers to supposedly only little extent.
In the course of the preparation of an invasion of England supposed to be promising after the victory at Beachy Head 1690 in the first War of the Grand Alliance (also Nine Years War, War of the Palatinian Succession, War of the English Succession, Orleans War, War of the League of Augsburg, 1688-97) on the morning of April 28, 1692, the not yet completely assembled French fleet of 44 ships under the command of count De Tourville met the joint English-Dutch fleet under Sir Edward Russell, with 98 ships far superior by numbers, off Barfleur. Realizing that in spite of initial advantages and better maneuverability carrying on the battle would be useless in the evening De Tourville ordered the retreat which – not least also because of false parsimony at the fittings of the fleet increasingly neglected since the days of Colbert – widely failed, however, and resulted in a severe splitting up of the fleet. Indeed half of the ships escaped to St. Malo while others even headed around England on their flight, but for the rest the hoped for protection by the troops and batteries assembled at La Hougue (Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue) proved to be fatal: in an attack with fire-ships and long-boats on June 2 admiral Russell burnt all 12 partly anyway already severely damaged ships lying there closely under land.
This moment here then
in grandiose drama
which should mark the end of all French invasion plans and at the same time England’s rise to absolute naval power, characterized by Jules Michelet as
“ one of the decisive battles in the world
for it convinced the French
(Christopher Lloyd, Atlas zur Seefahrts-Geschichte, 1980, p. 36).