Charming elegance is on exhibit within the canvas by Charles Fouqueray. It is a special lighthearted moment when the ladies are brought onboard to tour a warship, whether they are an auxiliary group from the port of call, or more likely, the wives of the officers preparing to depart. Their Victorian dress is perfectly in synch with each other, down to the individual colors and sweeping floor lengths. Their hairstyles are all tightly pulled with flowers or large ribbons, and one carries binoculars. The officers are in their best uniforms as well, with epaulets and the gold double-breasted buttons smartly done; our forward man is smoking a cigarette. Ordinary seamen observe from a respectable distance, and a watch officer stands ready near a barefooted sailor who is mostly working in obscurity, off the canvas.
Atmospheric clouds mute the sky background, making one instantly think of the French Coast. The visual elements of the partially shown ship have some interesting features to clue one to its type and time. The large “bottle-shaped” cannon is in the style of the first Shell Gun invented by French Admiral Henri-Joseph Paixhaus and perfected by American Admiral James Dalhgren. The rail has bench seats, the lifeboats are swung out on davits and the angle of the ropes indicates tall mast heights and a broad beam of an undoubtedly large steam/sail warship. The last hint is the personalized inscription by the artist with his signature repeated which tends to indicate that he painted this onboard and gave it to one of his officer-companions as a commemorative of this meeting and voyage. It is an age of grace and social rules, in the full throes of the Belle Epoche, only brief moments away from the pain of the First World War.
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