In this narrative composition, a dutch GALLIOT has just come upon a British naval squadron patrolling the coast of France during the Napoleonic wars (1792-1815). The Netherlands had been annexed by France in 1794 and were now allies of Napoleon. These shallow-draft Dutch merchant vessels then mainly carried supplies along the coasts of Europe to provision the French army.
As a British sixth-rate, gun ports open, bears down from windward to inspect the GALLIOT's papers, the unarmed merchantman lowers her mizzen-sail and a crewman stands by forward to drop the headsails in preparation for heaving to. The Dutch captain is shown standing solemnly at the port rail pondering his vessel's fate.
Charles Martin Powell often focused on historical naval subjects for his paintings, especially during the latter part of his career when the Napoleonic wars were at their height. Showing his masterful adoption of the Dutch style, Powell has chosen a wonderfully luminous palette in the sky and clouds to enhance the painting's atmosphere. The knowledge he gained during his early years as a seaman is also demonstrated in the well drafted vessels and beautifully rendered sea.
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