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Greetings everyone;

 

I am researching the Royal Caroline of 1749,  and as part of this I have viewed the original of the painting which is used as a frontispiece in Sergio Bellabarba's AOS book about her.  As his illustration is in black and white what I will be describing is not obvious,  but it is possible to view colour images of this painting for anyone really interested.

 

Anyway,  in this painting,  although parts of some of the decks are visible,  no deck planking is shown.  instead,  the deck appears to be covered with a uniform grey-coloured something.  My first,  and so far only,  realistic guess is that it is painted canvas.  This grey covering is visible on the quarterdeck,  where the Royal passengers would mostly appear,  so it may be related to them,  but it also appears on the forecastle,  where they certainly would not normally go. The upper deck in the waist cannot be seen,  but it would seem a fair assumption that it was similarly treated. 

 

Could it be purely decorative,  or could it be as a means of aiding important feet to avoid slipping and sliding as the vessel heeled and pitched.

 

Before I go and pass many hours wading through her log-books in an effort to see if anything about this is mentioned,  I wondered if any other members here might know anything about it.

 

All the best,

 

Mark P

 

 

Edited by Mark P
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I think everyone is going to ask you to provide the image so we can see it. Are you sure you are seeing canvas in the artwork? Actual decks on real ships are a grey color from use and weathering. I have heard of canvas on decks in the great cabins of ships but these are interior spaces and the canvas is painted to look like tile. Canvas underfoot on an exterior deck is something I never heard of or seen before in a painting or a model. And from a feasibility standpoint it does not make much sense to me, its going to wear into rags pretty quickly while at the same time holding moisture in the wood deck. Also, even if painted its going to become absolutely filthy in a short time. Wooden decks were routinely (sometimes daily) hollystoned to keep them looking clean and this is much more likely for a royal yacht, in my opinion.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Hi Frankie;

 

Thanks for your thoughts,  and herewith the requested photos.  Apologies for the somewhat poor image quality,  but these had to be taken without flash,  so with a 1/4 second exposure.

 

My first thought on seeing this was that it was the shadow of the sails,  but some areas of the deck appear in darker and lighter shades of the grey colour.

 

I fully agree with you that the decks of a Royal Yacht are likely to have been holy-stoned (comes from the men being on their knees,  as in praying) even more assiduously than on a normal Navy vessel,  which was normally every day.  This kept the deck planking pale,  not allowing dirt to stay there.

 

I also concur with your observations about the likelihood of canvas trapping moisture,  and not lasting long,  but I cannot think of anything else it could be.

 

I don't think that it is a fading of the oil paint,  either,  as the topside timbers are quite clearly the correct colour,  and deck planking would normally be lighter than this.

 

Incidentally,  the darker smudges near the crewmen on the fo'c's'le are coils of ropes laid out on the deck (no belaying pins here!)

 

And another incidentally:  the black rail on the fo'c's'le is,  I believe,  not the final finished colour.  I think it is the first stage in painting and then gilding (although red is normally the colour of the coat directly under the gilding)  However,  Royal Caroline went for her sea-trials,  and even for her first trip with the King aboard,  with quite a lot of her gilding and painting un-finished. As this painting is dated 1750,  it seems quite reasonable to assume that it shows her in this state.  She was launched 2 months before the end of 1749,  but then had to be fitted out before going to sea.  All other paintings show her with gilded rails.

 

Anyway,  any suggestions as to what this grey-coloured deck might be would be most happily received!

 

All the best,

 

Mark P

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post-10197-0-76901700-1468041665_thumb.jpg

Edited by Mark P
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It is intriguing to think that the weather decks were covered with heavy canvas druggets, but this is unlikely, as J S Frank suggests. Weathered wood, even if scrubbed would turn a greyish color after a while. While it is tempting to think that the planking was painted 'sad colour', this can also be discounted as it would be difficult to maintain. How accurate, in your opinion, Mark, is the painting in other details?

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Hi Gentlemen,  and thank you for your interest.

 

Druxey:  the carved and gilded frieze of figures is well-detailed on the painting,  and is a very close match for the draught of Royal Caroline which was made by Af Chapman,  who was in the Deptford area close to the time of her building. 

 

I have also found an itemised bill for decorating the Royal Caroline,  which lists Mr Cleveley as responsible for painted panels,  of shipping and other themes, in the King's rooms,  and for re-furbishing the panel on the buffet,  presumably removed from Caroline's predecessor. 

 

It can therefore be a safe assumption that the picture of Royal Caroline painted by John Cleveley,  from which the photos above are taken,  was painted by him (in 1750) based on a great degree of close personal knowledge of her appearance.

 

You may also remember some earlier posts about a seat of ease at the beakhead,  which is also drawn on Chapman's draught.  It is just possible to make this out on the painting,  although not clear;  however,  there is another painting of her by John Cleveley,  in which the seat of ease is quite clearly shown.

 

 

Fatfingers:  thank you for the idea;  teak does go silvery over time,  as do many other woods left to weather.  I am not sure if timber from the Far East was being used at this time,  though,  in English shipyards,  but it is something to consider,  and a possible explanation.

 

A point against this is that the decks were almost certainly scrubbed (swabbed) every day,  and at the time of the painting,  Royal Caroline was still only months on from being launched,  so the decks would not have been very old.

 

All the best,

 

Mark P

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A point against this is that the decks were almost certainly scrubbed (swabbed) every day,  and at the time of the painting,  Royal Caroline was still only months on from being launched,  so the decks would not have been very old.

 

All the best,

 

Mark P

 

In that case, since she wasn't launched yet, it's unlikely the decks were being scrubbed or holystoned.  With all the activity going on the finishing her up, anyone doing "cleaning" would have been in the way.  

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Hi Mark;

 

I think you slightly mis-read my note,  as it says she was months on from being launched,  ie after launching. 

 

I will try and avoid such potentially misleading sentences in the future,  and make it clearer.

 

All the best,

 

Mark P

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One further thought:

 

Royal Caroline had her sea trials in early 1750,  before she was finished.   Quite possibly the painting shows her during these trials (there is no Royal Standard at the masthead,  so the king was certainly not on board at this time)  and perhaps the deck needed to be covered as it was not completely caulked,  or the seams had not yet been filled off with pitch.

 

All the best,

 

Mark P 

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I did mis-read that, Mark.  My bad.  If as your last post says it was during the sea trials, you're probably correct... canvas or still not finished.  

 

I'm wondering if was sea trials, that many things were covered to protect them.. not just from the elements but also whatever work needed to be carried out during the trials.

 

Oh what we would give for a time machine.....

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I would love to see a shot of the entire painting, is there one online someplace? There sure is a lot of detail in the details you have presented. >EDIT< oh I see there is one on wikipedia:  https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/55/John_Cleveley_the_Elder_-_The_'Royal_Caroline'.jpg

Edited by JerseyCity Frankie
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The ship certainly had an odd deck arrangement, its such an odd layout with that-what would you call it?- a midships house? In the painting the "midships house" deck appears painted red, which is also odd. in photos of this model you can see there is an after stair leading to this red deck so we know it could be trod upon:  http://www.modelships.de/Royal_Caroline_III/Photos_ship_model_ROYAL_CAROLINE_close_views.htm  The deck on the "house" is red in the painting so one would GUESS that the rest of the decks elsewhere on the ship would be red too, but there is the grey color.

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We are seeing into the shadow next to the far bulwarks, so bring the shade up several notches.  Could well be clean white decks, just in the shadow, in fact, a close look makes this just about the same as the shadow on the boat's hull and the ship's side.

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Hi everyone;

 

Thanks for the comments.  The cabin amidships is part of the Royal suite of cabins,  and the roof is indeed painted red.  Some paintings show a couple of figures standing on this cabin roof,  presumably including the captain,  who otherwise would not have been able to see the rest of the crew very well. 

 

Regarding the shadow,  I agree that it is possible when looking at the aft deck that what we are seeing is the shadow of the sail (it can't be the shadow of the bulwarks,  as the sun is on the starboard side:  see the anchor shadow)

 

However,  the entirety of the fo'c's'le deck is the same grey,  with one area nearest the viewer a slightly lighter colour.  There is a change of grey colour just this side of the mast and the galley chimney (yes,  these are pinky-red!  They are shown this colour in every painting,  although the bottom of the mast was this colour only for about the first six feet).  This shading of the grey area seems to me to indicate that most of the fo'c's'le deck is in shadow,  but not the part nearest the viewer.  So it cannot be shadow that is responsible for this grey all over the fo'c's'le deck.

 

And as the sail is braced hard round,  it would be impossible for it to cast a shadow on the entire deck.  It can be seen that the coat worn by one of the crewmen is part in sunlight,  part in shadow.  So any deck to his right would be in sunlight,  hence the change in shade near the mast.

 

The hull of the ship's boat,  whilst indeed partly shadowed,  is still noticeably browny-gold,  not grey.  The adjacent deck is a very different colour.  I am sure it is not shadow we are seeing.

 

All the best,

 

Mark P

Edited by Mark P
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Now you got me wondering if the colors are "intentionally off" as I look at the Wikipedia picture.  Note the clouds, the sails, even the flags... everything has a tint to it for the mood...  Choppy seas, dark cloud with orangish tint on the white.  Storm has just passed or it's nearing sunset.  

 

Boy.. what a mystery.

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Hi Mark;

 

Thanks for the thought.  I don't think it's intentionally off-colour,  as the hull planking is the correct colour.  Besides which,  the decks are not really a noticeable part of the painting.  It is not until you zoom in close that it becomes obvious that something is strange.

 

All the best,

 

Mark P

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Hello Mark, 

 

I just have stumbled upon this thread of yours and read everything which was written here so far. Interesting thing, I am also very passionate of English yachts although my favourite period starts a bit earlier with the Stuarts dynasty.

 

Just some quick thoughts for now: yes, painted canvas glued with wet paint over the deck and lately painted over was common practice on English Yachts from the Stuart period already. It was thought a good way to protect the quality people inside the cabins from the water seeping between the planks - at the time, it was somehow inevitable due to the imperfections of the deck caulking.  

 

However, the paint colour was not a common grey... instead it was either the same bulwark red or sometimes even more fancy things like a checkered black and white pattern! But if it is thought that the ship portrayed is new / in the trials, then it may be possible either that the decks are covered with old canvas tarpaulins to protect them, or alternatively that the canvas deck coverings is not yet painted. However, it is certain that the cover of the middle cabin was already painted in red so we may ask ourselves why they would have painted that and not the decks. 

 

As an aside comment, the same technique of painted canvas was used with 19th century railway carriages. Their tops were made of wood, carefully caulked and then a canvas top was laid over and painted. Usually white at the beginning - at least in Britain or Austria- , which white would later became a darker and darker shade of gray. Not from the movie, but from the locomotive's smoke and ashes.... 

 

The pinky colours of the galley chimney and the lower part of the mast: the chimney was in fact a copper tube whose colour when new is, as you know, pinkish and later it turns to a darker pink-grey or even dark green when oxidizes. The same goes for the lower part of the mast, which was coppered up to a certain level to protect the wood against the water spraying from the deck. 

 

Hope this helps :)

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If you could find a source for some "architect or draftsman's linen", it might give the appearance of canvas for deck covering, However I have not seen any for sale in decades. Drafting seems to only be done on the computer these days. My kid brother was a design engineer and I remember seeing him use it many moons ago.  

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Greetings Gentlemen,  and thank you for the comments.

 

Druxey, I will see what I can post.  As I understand Crown copyright,  photographs can be posted on password-protected websites for research and education purposes.  However,  I only really took photos of details,  as the light was poor,  and the exposure time long.  I will try to post something more,  but the best shots of the decks are the two above.  Also,  I am not sure exactly who is the copyright holder of the Cleveley painting.  I imagine it is actually the NMM,  and not Crown copyright.  I have a digital image of this painting from the Bridgeman Library,  but it is not possible to zoom in as close as I was when I took the photos.

 

Doreltomin,  your comments are very helpful.  I knew that the stove pipe for the Royal Caroline was almost certainly copper,  as I have found a mention of a copper chimney,  but I assumed the mast was painted,  and the chimney also to match.  Thank you for adding your knowledge to this post.  As they are both always shown as pink,  in paintings from different periods,  it was probably part of the crew's duties to keep them polished.

 

Are you able to give any sources for documents that describe the painted canvas deck covering in more detail?  I would be very glad to find out more about this,  as even if it is about Stuart period yachts,  it will be very relevant as a precedent (some of those yachts survived well into the 18th century,  as I am sure you are aware)

 

I have read about metal mast funnels being used in later periods to protect mast heads from chafing from the shrouds,  etc,  but not of their use at the base of the mast. 

 

I will be carrying out more research at the National Archive at the end of the month,  looking for more information about Royal Caroline.  Hopefully this will turn up something more about this topic. 

 

Again,  many thanks for your input.

 

Dwaing,  presumably this canvas was of a much finer weave,  with a smoother surface.  Was it painted with size,  or a similar compound. 

 

Thank you all again,  gentlemen.

 

All the best,

 

Mark P

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Hi jbshan;

 

Frankie hasn't signed a written agreement not to infringe copyright rules!  If the NMM thinks that I am overstepping the mark,  my research opportunities could be drastically reduced.

 

Herewith another couple of images.  I imagine that the grey roof to the companionway in one is a sheet of lead;  especially as it functions as a step to reach the cabin roof.

 

The only ones that show areas of deck have already been posted at the beginning of this post.

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post-10197-0-22102500-1468268721_thumb.jpg

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I'm still skeptical there is evidence of anything unusual about the deck to be found in the painting. The portion of the deck visible in the painting (aside from the red cabin top) is a very narrow strip. The fact that it is appearing in a painting should not be forgotten, it could be that there were reasons for making it appear grey in the painting that do not reflect reasons it would be grey on an actual ship. Its plausible, in my opinion, that the artist went with a greyer color merely to help the eye distinguish between the other nearby painted elements of the ship, in order to make it clear to the viewer that the parts that were grey were horizontal and the other parts are all vertical surfaces. But if you were being impartial and looking for evidence of a color painted over the deck, the painting is making it quite clear the color used is red, not grey. We are told this is a new ship and this tells me the deck would be tight with all the seams caulked and paid with pitch, not a leaky deck requiring a canvas covering. As I like to end many of my posts with the words "but I could be wrong" I hope everyone will read this as opinion and not criticism.

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Gentlemen,  thank you for the further comments;

 

Greg:  the frieze was definitely carved,  in quite high relief,  and to a much higher standard and finish than was usual for other vessels.  The finished carvings,  and much of the rest of the decoration,  was gilded.  All this came at a rather high cost. 

 

Frankie:  I think that if the artist wished to differentiate between surfaces in contrasting planes,  he would have achieved this result by painting the deck planks as light-coloured planking,  if that is what was visible.  This would then have stood out very well against the red bulwarks.

 

Just to be sure,  from your comment about only a narrow strip of deck being visible,  perhaps you have missed the quite noticeable expanse of fo'c's'le deck shown,  also in grey,  all over.

 

The artist,  John Cleveley,  has a reputation for painting accurate portraits of ships,  and worked at Deptford Dockyard,  where Royal Caroline was built.  I have written evidence that he worked on her during her building,  so it cannot be doubted that he knew her well.  It would seem highly unlikely that he would paint the deck of such an important vessel in a different colour to reality.  His patrons,  who were senior naval officers,  many of whom sailed in Royal Caroline or in convoy with her,  would have known immediately if he moved very far from a true likeness.

 

Again,  though,  thank you for taking the time to set out your thoughts. 

 

All the best,

 

Mark P

Edited by Mark P
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The aft strip of deck that is visible is very narrow: could it simply be that the waterway was painted and the deck, not visible due to the starboard bulwark, was unpainted as one might expect? I agree that the forecastle is more problematic.

 

Incidentally, the contemporary model of Speedwell, 1752, in the RMG has the masts painted red for about five or six feet above deck level and are octagonal for that section. The suggestion that the masts were coppered is most unlikely, in my opinion.

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Hi Druxey;

 

I did not know that other models had the bottom of their mast a red-colour.  There is a painting of Royal Caroline,  in 1760 when she became the Royal Charlotte,  which shows her with a pinky-red base to the foremast,  which also appears to be octagonal. 

 

But as to whether or not this is copper,  I would be very pleased if Doreltomin could point me to a source for any of the information in his post. 

 

All the best,

 

Mark P

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A quick search on Google has turned up another painting by Cleveley of HMY Royal Caroline.

https://www.bonhams.com/magazine/16555/

The text also makes mention of yet another painting in the Victoria Art Gallery, Bath. Not sure if you have seen these.

The painting listed by Bonhams does show a red chimney too, but I can't make out the deck colour.

Relative to the original question, there was a floor covering used during the 19th century called floorcloth or oilcloth. This consisted to canvas with linseed oil based paint troweled on so that the canvas became saturated. Sometimes patterns were printed on top. It was waterproof and hard wearing. I'm not sure how far back production of floorcloth goes, but it went out of favor in the late 19th century as linoleum became the floor converging of choice other than carpet. However, Nairn's, the linoleum manufacturer, used to claim everyone from paupers to the Tsar's royal yacht used their floorcloth.

Edited by FatFingers
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Hi FatFingers;

 

Thank you for your reply,  and for the time and trouble you have gone to to search these out. 

 

I have a larger copy of the Bonhams image,  but even at quite close quarters it is difficult to make out the deck,  as only a small area of the fo'c's'le is visible.  The deck here could be grey,  or it could be planking in the shadow.  Not really possible to be sure,  as the viewpoint is low,  and the deck is nearly end-on.  This painting actually shows her later in her career,  as Royal Charlotte. 

 

The painting in the Victoria Gallery in Bath is a panoramic view of the arrival of Princess Charlotte,  and Royal Caroline is not greatly detailed (she had been re-named Royal Charlotte for this event)

 

Your information about oilcloth is welcome.  I have seen the name many times,  but was never sure how it was made;  only that it was meant to be water resistant/proof.  Thank you for that.

 

All the best,

 

Mark

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