The last obstacle to Napoleon's empirical ambitions proved to be the British Royal Navy. A stalwart member of the fighting fleet, this British First-Rate Warship we believe most strongly to be the 100-gun BRITANNIA, alongside which Thomas Buttersworth served while on escort duty aboard H.M.S. CAROLINE in his last active role of his naval career, when he was put ashore to convalesce in the Balearic Islands. It is this very same Spanish Isle chain that is portrayed, with the heights of the Island of Mallorca serving as the background to the ships and buildings on the low laying edge of the Isle of Cabrera, where among Royal Navy personnel, French Prisoners-of-War were held.
After the war-weary British signed the Treaty of Amiens in 1802 with Napoleon, there was a brief exchange of territories and a balance of power established which held for slightly more than one year. Soon enough hostilities would resume and the French Emperor sought to cut off Britain's supply lines with a plan to occupy the ports of English Mediterranean allies. The Balearic Sea was one of the most significant strategically, and stationed numerous British subjects and ships to hold it. This early painting by the artist shows action from this period of nautical manuevering.
Thomas Buttersworth portrayed many naval events from the Napoleonic Wars. The sweeping lines of the warship's forecastle proudly displays the blue-dressed figurehead, and the shape of the hull and quarter-decks show its late 18TH Century construction. In this composition the scene is artistically enhanced with the muted tones of the distant headland in contrast to the deep emerald sea, active with the sailing Admiralty sloop and a Mediterranean rigged ship on the active sea. The apparent wind is driving not only the ships, but the expanse of cumulus clouded sky.
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