The culmination of centuries of conflict in the Mediterranean and the suppression of slavery in North Africa, the British Admiralty under the command of Edward Pellew, Baron Exmouth, were victorious over the Barbary Coast States in 1816, destroying the Dey of Algiers fleet and battlements at the mouth of the Mediterranean. The bombardment of Algiers began at 3 p.m. on August 27th, 1816. Twenty-eight ships, including a fleet of Dutch allies led by Vice-Admiral Theodorus Frederik van Capellen who joined the exposition at Gibraltar, followed Lord Exmouths flagship H.M.S. QUEEN CHARLOTTE to pound the North African city into submission with a devastation 10-hour naval siege of the Mediterranean base of the Barbary Corsairs.
The end of the Napoleonic Campaigns in 1815 made it possible for the British Naval command to focus on the Barbary Coasts piratical forces. The remains of their Algerian Fleet and castle fortifications are visible in this large scale painting by the artist Thomas Luny, one of two known masterpieces of this epic engagement by the artist. The other painting, once owned by Lord Exmouths family, was purchased by a British museum. A deep and dark evening of severe weather is illuminated with the glow of the cannons and fires, the fleet of the corsairs caught in the annihilation. A sky-high fire bomb and lightning strike are visible, as is the British warships imminent victory, with English marines and Barbary corsairs still manning the rowed launches.
Exmouths Flagship, H.M.S. QUEEN CHARLOTTE is prominent, her triple-decked 100 guns having served their purpose. For decades, Barbary corsairs had demanded tribute and ransom of Western ships to sail the Mediterranean, creating a system of documented paper passports for those who paid such tithes. Still, while many sailors and voyagers were captured and enslaved, the British Navy was beholden to the North African countries for supplies during the Napoleonic Conflict.
Exmouth had previously negotiated with the Dey of Algiers for a non-hostile resolution to stop their practice of taking Christian slaves and to free those held already held by the Barbary pirates. The Deys of Tunis and Tripoli had both agreed prior without resistence. During this latest negotiation, when an effort to board the British ships under stealth by the corsairs, who outnumbered the British significantly, led to gunfire, the conflict began in full. Once it had, the British Fleet systematically destroyed their opposition over the evening-long conflict.
The following day, Exmouths peace offer of the previous refused terms was accepted by the Dey, under the bluffed threat that the attack would continue. The British forces had actually expended all of their ammunition. More than 1000 Christian slaves were freed as a result, many once mariners of several countries.. In partial reward, Lord Exmouth would be given the newly created position 1st Viscount Exmouth on Dec. 10, 1816, and become commander-in-chief upon his return to England, Vice-Admiral, and numerous awards in retirement.
Flying under a billowing British ensign, this eighteenth century cutter-rigged privateer has an admiral aboard as seen in the white Saint George's flag on the bowstaff. Under a glowing sky, the independently commanded vessel appears to be carrying her human passengers toward the distant square-rigger on the horizon. Looking on the scene are two fishermen in a small fishing boat off the port side.
One of the great late eighteenth, early nineteenth century marine painters, Luny, in the marine painting tradition favored beautiful paintings with a strong narrative sense. Among the earliest British artists to explore possibilities in luminism, this work shows the artist successfully employing this new-found technique. Following a long standing practice, notice how Luny incorporates a bit of flotsam to present his signature while keeping the letter from obviously invading the emotional feels of this strong scene.