Ancient Mariners

On Monday I had the privilege to see inside St James Palace in London with my mum to view our ancestors painting of the Victory in the Battle of Trafalgar. My great x5 grandad William Huggins was commissioned to paint three works on Trafalgar, three of which are in the Royal Collection of art.

Hung in the banqueting room of red carpets, red flocked velvet wallpaper and chandeliers the painting dominates one wall. Walking up the sweeping staircase I discovered the banisters were covered in deep red velvet. It was so amazing to be the only people in there with curator Lucy giving us an insight in to how the palace is used and the Royal collection.

The fact the painting still hangs in a room used for functions and not stored makes me feel it still has some presence, is still seen.

William Huggins painted many mariner and naval works after sailing to the far East, often using bitchamen (spelling? the black stuff in tar) to emphasise the darkness in his high sea depictions. His son in Law was the artist Edward Duncan, also a marine painter.

Huggings originally painted the works for the Greenwich hospital and was grieved they never got there. I would be interested to know how they changed owners and came to be in Hampton Court and St Jame’s.

Both are buried in Highgate Cemetery.
Here’s a bit of Wikipedia on him

Unfortunately I wasn’t allowed to take photos and the finished works are not online only a watercolour prepratery sketch available as posters and completely different from the intense smoke and darkness in the final pieces in oil.


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