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Soleil Royal by Hubac's Historian - Heller - An Extensive Modification and Partial Scratch-Build

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Guest bearegalleon

Van de Velde is contemporary, reliable and realistic, so that’s a great source.  Check out Bakhuisen as well.  


The 18th and 19th century models and drawings are probably better as historiography than sources, esp. the ones made during the reign of Louis Philippe.  That huge instructional model is gorgeous, and sources say very early 18th century, during the ship’s lifespan and after the fashion for blacked wales along the whole of the side came in.  After slowly cooking along the lower sides of English ships for fifty years, blackened wales suddenly appear everywhere right at the turn of the 18th century.  There has to be a rich story there.  


Your detail work along the upperworks is spectacular.  Keep up the good work!



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Thank you very much BeareG!


The VDVs are the gold standard, IMO, especially in an age of relatively poor documentation of the French fleet.  It is both tragic and ironic that the French built some of the most spectacularly beautiful ships, and all we are left with are a collection of fragmentary relics that give some sense of their grandeur.


Along those lines, Bakhuizen’s Barfleur paints a dramatic portrait of SR, even if there are massive incongruities between the portrayal of this supreme three-decker and her reality; chief among them, is that Bakhuizen grafted the two-tiered stern of a second-rate onto the hull of a three-decker.  Added to that is the fact that the sheer is represented as being much too flat.


Nevertheless, it is a fascinating portrait.  Incidentally, this painting was also the inspiration for the particular shade of gold that I chose for the model.  Bakhuizen’s SR literally glows with a warm golden hue.  I found an acrylic that very much gives this same impression of pure gold gilding.  I’ve applied a little to the  port side, upper main wale, where there are a series of main deck port enhancements.  It looks great, but the paint is not easy to work with; you have to keep going over it, un-diluted, to get even coverage.


Beare, I am interested in the Texel-type paint technique you were describing earlier.  Can you post a few pics of that, here? 

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In my opinion, there are four modern, scratch-built models (not including the Tanneron model) of SR that are really fascinating and good.  The following is one of them.


VISITOR BEWARE: the link comes with a warning that the page is not secure, so keep that in mind.  I use Apple products, and am perhaps over-confident in their defenses.



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I've always been impressed with that model. Like most of S.R. (myself included) there are well known errors and some for debate, but the workmanship is undeniable. The size is also incredible at 1:48. My own is 1:77 and takes up a large space. I would love to build one of these at 1:48 scale, but the admiral would probably banish both me and the ship to the shop. :)

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Guest bearegalleon

The painting technique goal was to develop a Texel style finish using acrylics, for easy clean up and no fumes.  Here is the method:


* start with Testor's "wood" as a base coat.  This substitutes for the ochre, and is used overall.  


* if desired, use a fine felt permanent ink pen to represent bolts, hinges, etc. 


* then give a wash with thinned flat black, using a broad brush and a little drop of soap in the water to reduce viscosity.  You can apply as many times as desired.  The reduced viscosity allows the wash to flow into crevices, highlighting details.  You can also stipple and dry brush to gain various effects of weathering on the hull as desired.  


* apply a wash of Liquitex Artist's Acrylic Burnt Umber, thinned with soapy water using a broad brush, repeating were desired.  A thin mix is good to gradually build up tone, while a thicker mix can be used to create depth.


* use an old tooth brush with uneven bristles, dip in rubbing alcohol, and run very quickly and lightly across the surface in the direction of grain.  This will disturb the burnt umber and create streaks that imitate wood grain.  Be careful not to go hard, as it can remove paint from edges of moldings, bolts, hinges, etc.  let dry and repeat as desired.


*touch up with ink or paint to clean up any details as desired, and you're done.  




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Really an excellent paint tutorial, Beare!  Thank you for describing it so clearly.  Too bad about the pics.  I would love to see it.


I suppose the same techniques would work on real wood, if you applied a few coats of thinned shellac, or sanding sealer, first.


Are you planning to do something like the current museum installation of the Mary Rose; a salvaged wreck that shows the age and erosion of the timbers, as well as the patinated surface from preservation with PEG.  I once found a spectacular diorama model of the Vasa in her un-restored state.  The modeler so perfectly captured the disarray and damage to her upper works from laying at the bottom of Stockholm harbor for three hundred years.  I have not been able to find it, since.


Anyway, I hope you will post logs for these models you are building because it sounds as though you are ambitious and that your techniques would be highly instructive.


One guy on this site who does really mind-blowing finishes is Kirill4.  If you are not already familiar with him, you should check out his galleon - it’s a treat!

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Guest bearegalleon

Glad it's useful.  I've edited for clarity but the content is all the same.  


That Wasa model is great, and there's a similar model of Svardet out there, in a diorama style.  They are very useful for evaluating evidence in situ.  My projects are focusing on reconstructing the 16th c hull form, using primary data from surviving ships and their wrecks.   


It looks as if contemporary 18th c French models often have a great deal of red inboard.  It takes a while for that style to develop, and English sources indicate that this process began around 1650, gradually becoming more prevalent.  It would seem natural for a late 17th c interpretation of SR, yet the Bakhuizen also includes a sinking French vessel whose decks seem not to have any red at all.  Is there any good evidence for the treatment of inboard works of late 17th c French warships?  



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Well, Beare, I would not say that there is a preponderance of evidence that red was used on the inner bulwarks, towards the end of the 17th C.


In looking at my resources, I can only find a few contemporary models that are (somewhat) near the turn of the century, which show the use of red here.


The best near example is the Royal Louis:


Next would be the large instructional model at Rochefort, which dates to somewhere around 1715-1720:


Following that, there is what I believe is a model of Tonnerant, from some time shortly after 1720, or thereabouts, if I may be so deliberately vague:



With his monograph of the St. Philippe, though, Mr. Lemineur asserts that red inner bulwarks would certainly have been a feature, at the dawn of the Second Marine in 1693.  He has this and other interesting things to say about the use of color, in this time period:



As he is, IMO, the leading voice of this epoch in French naval architecture, I am inclined to rely upon him, and his St. Philippe, as my guide.


In wading through this uncertain period of French naval architecture - so many of these decisions, as Dan Pariser often says, come down to whether you can make a case for “plausible deniability.”  I may not be able to absolutely prove that it is right, however, I also can not say that it is definitely wrong.  As always, though, I welcome any new insights, and sources of information.


One thing I could do, although I’m not feeling up to it at the moment, would be to comb more vigorously through Minister Arnoul’s very lengthy and thorough description of the Royal Louis of 1668.  My previous translation focused on the external decoration, but he also describes the interior at great length.


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So, in scanning through imagery, I found this color engraving of what is often described as an early portrait of Soleil Royal.


That the port lids are painted red -even on the main deck level - would seem to suggest that the inner bulwarks would also be painted red:



The portrait seems more folk-art than an accurate portrayal of a particular ship, but the use of color, here, seems deliberate.

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Guest bearegalleon

Hey Hubie,  I know exactly what you mean.  It's challenging but intensely rewarding.  


The Lemineur monograph strong suggest primary sources, like a written summary equivalent to the early 18th century models you posted.  Saint Phillipe may be the next step forward in the naval progression, but still close enough to the age of SR to give good ground.   If you find the earlier work, it umight be interesting to see what changes occurred between the two periods.


Red ochre bulwarks are already coming into use on English ships by 1689, they are not implausible for a vessel rebuilt just before the construction of the Saint Phillipe.  The vermillion details would "pop" visually in contrast with the ordinary red ochre.  


Lemineur says the lower decks were painted white inside, probably for light and cleanliness.  If this is reading right, the red gunport lids alone of the lower decks were red, probably for display when opened.   


Interesting, the drawing of the RS you just posted has a lot of red on the head.  Le Soileil Lucy.  


Somewhere in the Vasa discussions is a comment that gilding could be imitated by applying a tinted varnish over white, which gave color with a luminous body.  


Thanks for posting that book, it was really enjoyable to read-



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Well, I’ve nearly finished beefing up the lower battery.  Here are 24 out of 30 barrels; somehow, I missed one sprue tree, with the remaining six.  I’ll have to pick those up, when I go to my Dad’s, in a few weeks.



This came out well, I think, and to the desired effect.  I am not eager, though, to repeat this process for the middle deck battery.


Recently, I had something of an epiphany.  I remembered that, for the longest time, I had stashed away the lower battery barrels from my first SR build, as I had chosen, back then, to display her with most of the lower ports closed.


It dawned on me that, if I still have those guns, I could assemble them without a spacer and place them on the middle deck; 36lb guns on the middle deck.  I could then shift the stock middle battery to the main deck; the main deck to the f’ocsle and quarter decks, and a pair of 12 pounders up to the poop.  Doing so, will enable me to beef up every level of the battery without all of the extra work.


Hopefully, those extra 36lb guns are still in a baggie inside my un-built Heller Victory (also at my Dad’s).  I’ll still need to make up the difference of the few barrels I used on the first SR.  Maybe Henry still has his from his un-used kit.  If not, I can prolly just make castings of the two halves, easily enough.


The painting continues on a near-nightly basis.  The port side wales are blacked, the port linings painted and distressed, and the gold ornaments, along the top wale, are gilded.  It’s slow-going, but this is the most critical stage to take one’s time.


I’m still painting the gun carriage through bolts, and I have to dinge-down the narrow strip of white below the boot-topping.  Then, it’s touch-ups and a matte-latex clear coat to lock it all in.  Although, I suppose I should wait to see whether I have to adjust the distressing to match the starboard side.


I have also been combing the collected correspondence of Colbert to the various ministers of the shipyards at Brest, Toulon and Rochefort, and others.  I have set aside particular correspondence to M. De Seuil, of Brest, where there is some mention of SR, during the time of her construction.  I don’t think, in my approximate translations so-far, that there’s anything too earth-shattering there, but I will post whatever tidbits that I come up with


Here are two such examples:


Nouvelles Archives de l’Art Francais


Dispatches of Colbert Relative to the Decoration of the Vessels

Documents communicated by Mr. Louis Caffarena

It was supposed that after the publication of the letters, instructions and memoirs of Colbert by P. Clemen after Pierre Puget Leon Lagrange, it would be difficult to discover anything unpublished on the decoration of ships in the 17th century. Some writers of Provence, and in the first place our collaborator Mr. Ch Ginoux, had besides taken care of the question in a very special way.  The abundance of information they had gathered was such as to discourage the researchers that this curious subject could attempt. M. Cafferena, who has been familiar with the archives of this department with his duties at the Department of the Navy, has, however, assured himself that no package has been left unexplored. Our collaborator has not lost his sentence[?].  The depictions that follow are proof that the fund is exhausted. Clement and Lagrange did not know or did not care to publish these letters, textually recorded by Mr. Cafferena on the registers of deputies of Monseigneur preserved to the Navy.


I. Moderation to be made in the carved ornaments of which the vessels under construction at Toulon are overloaded.

To: Mr. Matharel
To: Saint-Germain, September 19, 1670

I am very glad that you have resolved with Messieurs de Martel D'Almeras and Sir Puget, that we should no longer put such great figures in the heads of the vessels. It is necessary to avoid this embarrassment and to make as few ornaments as possible. The English and the Dutch, in their constructions of the past, observe that they do not put any of them at all, and that they are not at all galleries, all these great works serving nothing more than to make the vessels much heavier, and give it to the brulots [fireships?/cannon fire?].


It is therefore necessary to imitate them in this, and for this purpose that Sir Puget reduce the ornaments of the dolls [sterns] that remain to be made to the vessels that are on the water and on the building sites, so that they can not embarrass [in this sense, hinder] them in the navigation. It will also be necessary for you to send me the drawings to show them to his majesty before he executes them.


II. From the decoration of vessels under construction in Brest. Drawings provided by LeBrun for The Royal Sun.

To: Mr. De Seuil
To: Dunkirk, May 22, 1671

Almost always the works of sculpture, painter and gild the rest of the ornamens of the said vessel, so that they are at their best, when the King sees them; if you have not received a decision from Mr. LeBrun, on the change to be made to the first drawing of the flat fund [tafferal] of the Royal Sun, please follow the advice of the painter.  He has marked you by his memory to be the more capable of conducting these works, because he makes them complete, and that he loses too much time waiting for new clarifications.



The first letter to Matharel re-enforces the earlier translation I had posted of Puget and his time at Toulon.


The second letter to M. De Seuil is interesting, only in so far as the development of SR’s ornamentation was a process of considerable revision, although nothing is said about the allegory, itself.


There are a few other brief passages that I will post in the coming days.

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In post 712, I wrote the following:


On 1/13/2019 at 3:48 PM, Hubac's Historian said:

I have for a good number of years, now, been studying this Berain drawing of the stern, and puzzling over the significance of the deliberately dark shaded figures of The America’s, Europe, Apollo and his Chariot, the Port quarter figure beneath the port lantern, and the three zodiac signs.  This always seemed strange, yet deliberate.


Today, I had something of an epiphany!  If it is so that some of SR’s ornamentation was salvaged and re-installed during the refit, then perhaps, these shaded ornaments represent those that were salvaged.


When you think about it, at this later stage of ornamentation in 1689, the large figurative works that were so characteristic of Puget’s early work, were largely a thing of the past.  Yet, here are these relatively large figures adorning the stern of SR after her refit.  Also consider the archeological convention of reconstructing old bones around the fossilized remnants of the original skeleton.  The original bone is darker than the artificial medium that makes up the re-construction.  That’s kind of what this drawing reminds me of.


It has been noted by others that the figure of the Orient/Asia, astride her camel, on the starboard side of the tafferal, is actually supposed to represent a tiger.  Well, no, I think Berain actually drew a camel.  Perhaps, though, the original figure which was too rotten to salvage actually was a tiger, and perhaps Berain chose to alter the figure with a camel.  Perhaps.


Then, there is the known fact that the coffered ceiling of the Great Council Chamber was preserved and re-incorporated into the re-built ship.


This is significant for two reasons.  First, the paintings that adorn this ceiling are thematically consistent with Berain’s allegory on the exterior, and thus suggest that there would be some ornamental consistency from Puget’s past into Berain’s present.


Secondly, the outline of the ceiling suggests that the timber framing of the stern would have remained largely the same as Laurent Hubac constructed it, even if Etienne had to replace most of it with fresh timber.  It is not hard to imagine the dilligent son respecting his father’s intuitive framing of the ship’s lines, and thus also maintaining the wing transom above the stern chase ports, as is drawn by Berain.


With all of that in mind, it becomes increasingly plausible for me to construct an ornamental tableaux around the vague outline of this ship, which increasingly, I believe to be Soleil Royal, perhaps painted by Puget, sometime between 1670 and 1688.


Ornamentally, the allegory would be much the same, but the structure, ornamentation and support of the lower two projecting stern balconies would have been more florid and figurative as Puget designed for the Monarch/Royal Louis.




The second is a better drawing provided by Heinrich, which Comes from the German study of the Royal Louis that Chapman first brought to my attention.


Or, so this all seems to me.


Today, scanning through the Gallica archives, I found the following:


Title : Sur la vie et les oeuvres de P. Puget , par D.-M.-J. Henry,...
Author : Henry, Dominique-Marie-Joseph (1778-1850). Auteur du texte
Publisher : impr. de E. Aurel (Toulon)
Publication date : 1853


It needs be noted that the author, in his prologue, is keen on setting the (then) record straight, concerning the artistic career and life of Mssr. Puget - noting the numerous inconsistencies in precious biographies. 


Inside, I found quite a lot of remarkable information - including what appears to be a fairly complete description of Soleil Royal’s ornamentation before her refit; AS DESIGNED BY PIERRE PUGET, as the author asserts quite strongly.  I will try to attach a Google Docs document into which I have excerpted quite a bit of interesting info about Puget’s role on the Monarch, as well as this section on SR.


In the meantime, consider what I mentioned about the tafferal figure of Asia and the tiger, in my earlier post, as well as the recycling of ornament.  Also, keep in mind that this is a direct copy/paste into Google Translate, without any accompanying edits or interpretation:



The colossal forces in the rear overloaded this part, had excited the complaints of the naval officers, which led Colbert to engage, as early as the year 1670, the intendant of the port of Toulon to confer with the great artist, so that he was modifying his compositions, and from no decoration could be undertaken that he had not previously received the approval of the Court. Intendant Matharel, charged with getting along with Puget, received from Colbert, on the date of September 19th (1670), a letter in which one reads:
"I am glad you have resolved with MM. of Mar "Mar" d'Almeras and Mr. Puget who would not be
"Henceforth so great figures to the dolls of the vessels; "We must avoid this embarrassment there and do the least ornament
"That it will be possible. The English and the Dutch in their
Today's buildings are careful not to put close to them and not to make galleries at all. All these "Great works only serve to make ships more
"Burdensome and to give hold to the burns; So it is necessary
"To imitate them in this, and for this purpose, that Mr. Puget
"To reduce the ornaments of the dolls that remain to be made to
"Vessels that are in the water or on the construction sites, so
"That they can not embarrass them in navigation.
"It will also be necessary for you to send me the designs
"To make them see S.M. before he executes them. »(1)
At that time, the art of navigation had made great progress. Going out of the ways of the old routine this art was
(1) I borrowed this letter from the sculpture article of the nautical glossary of M. A. Jal, naval historiographer. I am
P. PUGET. 37
it became a real science subject to calculation, and a sound and thoughtful theory replaced, in practice, the processes which traditional habits had maintained in the course of the Middle Ages, a disadvantage which they offered to navigation. It had been recognized that the exorbitant height of the quarterdeck was only good for drifting the vessel, and the construction of the lower heads was required; but as the improvements, in whatever way, are not improvised, and for those whose need is recognized there are always resistances more or less tenacious to overcome, even susceptibilities of position to spare, it is not was that the rear of the ships was lowered to a reasonable level, and during the reign of Louis XV again we saw the dolls, although lower than under Louis XIII and even under Louis XIV, to rise much to above the limit at which they stopped definitively under Louis XVI. The stern of the Royal Sun, whose decoration is also due to the pencil of Puget, seems to testify to the account held by this artist of the need to restrict the extent of decoration. In the design of this new vessel the upper gallery, that is to say, the one which in the other vessel culminates in the coronation, is suppressed, and the figures are less gigantic. The vault
it is a duty and a real pleasure to express to this laborious writer all my gratitude for the obliging competition which he has kindly lent me by searching, in the archives of the Ministry of the Navy, the documents which could not be furnished to me by the archives of the port of Toulon, and sending me textually a copy of the various pieces of Colbert's official correspondence which I use in this work.
other ornament than simple moldings and a mascaron to cover the opening of the jaumière. To this seems to be reduced the apparent modification made in the profusion of ornamental riches, the composition of the painting always retaining a great and noble character. It may be, however, that the absence of ornaments in the vault was less akin to the modification demanded by the minister, than to the quality of the vessel, which being of second rank did not admit so much luxury of decoration. The area that bears the name of the vessel, covered with beautiful arabesques, is, at the Sun Royal, supported by four baths indicating the seasons that the star of the day shares in its annual race, because it must be noted, everything is allegorical in the decoration of this building whose name itself alluded to the young monarch. The succession of seasons begins with the left, where winter is represented under the appearance of an old man wrapped in a drapery covering his head and body; the other three seasons are graceful figures of women carrying on their heads a basket full of flowers or fruits that characterize them. The gallery extends from one end of the stern to the other, and its two extremities serve as the seat of two beautiful figures representing warriors of lesser proportions than those of the first vessel. These warriors, whose defensive armor differs as well as attitude, still refer to the two great regions that the sun illuminates. The east, on the starboard side, had its helmet adorned with floating ostrich feathers, while the crest of the port warrior, composed of feathers of other birds, formed a broad plume framing with great taste all the top of the head . With the hands of the two hands, which were near the ship, on the cornice of the gallery, which served as their seat, both of them held up the arm on the opposite side, so that the hand served as support.
P. PUGET. 39
next to the top of the board. These sides are formed of an inverted console whose notch accommodated at the reentrant part of the flanks of the building, at the height of the second battery. A bust of a woman carrying on the head a basket of flowers for one, fruit for the other, comes out of the small winding of these consoles. The great bas-relief, left blank in the project of decoration of the first vessel, but drawn in this one which had already received its name, represents the young king under the figure of Phoebus, driving his chariot harnessed of the four mythological horses launched at a gallop, and in the ancient style, that is to say, thrown two on the right and two on the left. The coronation of this beautiful stern, of better taste than that of the other vessel, is formed by two figures of women seated with their legs extended along the very slightly arched border of this coronation, and turned on their hips so to present face all the upper body. Their costume still indicates in them the symbol of the East and the West. Nobly draped one by one, the figure of the west holds in his right hand a long scepter leaning on his shoulder, while in front of her, at her feet, a horse with a bristling, floating mane, with her head held high, her mouth open, and her nostrils wide, looks at her, neighing. To starboard, the symbol of the east carelessly holds in its hands, in front of it, a vase from which rises a plant apparently indicating that of perfumes. At the foot of this figure and symmetrically with that of the opposite side, is lying a tiger that a necklace passed around his neck seems to show as tame and submissive animal. This remarkable composition is, as we see, only an ingenious flattery by which Puget celebrated in his own way the glory of the young monarch, who at the same time dominates the East and the West, the East by the establishment created or
encouraged, (1) the West by the power of its weapons, and making its domination accept with love. An immense royal crown placed between the two symbolic figures, in the middle of the arch of the coronation, serves as a support for the only stern lantern. As in the other vessel, the whole surface of the painting is still noticeable by the profusion of details of the accessory ornamentation: L-stamped cartridges, crisscrossed, faces of radiant sun, fleur-de-lis medallions, strips of lambrequins between all the carvings of which is showing a fleur de lys, and this.
The design of the Sun-Royal still bears, as we see, several great figures; that was splendor, brilliancy, magnificence, it flattered the vanity of the king, who was as dazzled by sumptuousness as by victory, and Colbert, whatever his conviction, was not a man to be opposed to. his master on this article: the large figures, a little modified as to size, were still tolerated despite the formal disapproval of sailors, despite their incessant claims. However, Puget, in order to remove the inconvenience of too great a weight, had decided to hollow out as much as possible these masses of wood, as we see by those of those figures which still remain. Ten years had elapsed in this sort of struggle since the great minister had engaged the great artist to diminish the proportions of these ornaments, when the Sun-Royal received the decoration which I have just described. As this sculpture work was executed in Brest and that this port lacked or (1)
from or (1) East India Company established in 1664; new company of France Equinoxiale created in 1664; protection and encouragement to other Indian companies.
P. PUGET, 41
To be able to render Puget's thoughts worthily, the minister had to send some from Paris. On the 21st of December, 1684, the Marquis de Seignelay, to whom Colbert, his father, had delegated the affairs of the navy, wrote to the intendant at the port of Brest, M. de Seuil:
"I thought that the sculpture of the Sun-Royal was very advanced. Since you lack skill workers for the great figures, I will send you from here to the most; but "it would be necessary to avoid the defeats which are recounted in the ornaments of the stern of the Royal Louis, where it has been remarked, that these large and heavy figures can only emancipate him much in his navigation. I admit that the ornaments must correspond to the grandeur and magnificence of the king, who appears in these superb bodies of buildings, but we must also beware that they are in convenient. "
The correspondence of the minister of the navy with the intendants of the great ports, but especially with that of the port of Toulon, testifies to this continual struggle, from 1662 to 1689, to come to have definitively suppress the cumbersome decorations, and to make prevail, against ingrained habits, the advantage of simplicity



What is being described, here, is very similar to Berain’s depiction (“Apres Puget”) of Soleil Royal’s allegory, however, there are notable differences - in both style and representation, which seem more consistent with the early First Marine.


I will make a more detailed analysis, later, but I have to start making dinner now.


And, here, I was just hoping for a few crumbs from the archives while, instead, I was treated to a veritable feast!


P.S. there does not appear to be an easy way to link the Google Docs doc, from my phone, however if you are interested - just PM me and I will email it to you.


I hope (after all of this reading) that this was as satisfying for you, as it was for me 😀


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52 minutes ago, malachy said:

... which vessel this might be?


It looks like two different ships to me. The scond was a proposal for 'KING CARL' according to the description: here is the Google Translation...

"Drawings by miniature painter Étienne Compardel after Jean Berain, probably 1694.

In 1693 Jean Berain received an order from Tessin to make embellishments for a Swedish naval ship. The vessel would actually be called King Carl, but Berain wanted a ship name that was better suited for allegorical interpretations and the ship came therefore called the Victory. (However, some ship with this name was never launched). Berain delivered the 1694 drawings, which are now available at the War Archives. Compardel was then commissioned to perform detailed, beautifully colored drawings and the colors of blue and gold were adapted to the Swedish national coat of arms. On the stern, the Segergudinnan placed a four-span.

(Source: The exhibition catalog of "The Sun and the North Strait" at Nationalmuseum)
Collection: Lieutenant Malmborg
Production 1694 (uncertain date)

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That’s interesting that they are attributed to Compardel.  I will have to look into that further.


I can say that this ornamental scheme is sometimes attributed to  the Swedish 3-decker (one of the few) Kronan - the wreck of which, in the Baltic, is still an active archeological excavation site; surviving timber (even though the ship blew up) is as fresh and vivid as the Vasa.


In my opinion, though, this ornamental scheme has little in common with the ornamental norms of 1665.  It looks more consistent with the evolution of French ornamental style, into the 1740’s.


I don’t have any clear idea, though, as to what ship this portrait really represents.


I’m sorry - I hope this was helpful.

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Well, there is much to say about the description I posted, above, as it relates to the stern drawing by Jean Berain.


If these drawings are, in fact, “apres Puget,” or in the style of Puget, there is solid evidence, IMO, to recommend the notion that Berain’s drawing is largely a recycling of Puget’s ornament into Berain’s more characteristically compartmentalized, and restrained framework.


The allegory presented by Berain seems very much so to be fundamentally the same, as described.  There are a few notable differences, though, which I will attempt to illuminate from the waterline up to the tafferal.


First of all, a reading of the description, as I’ve posted it, is complicated by two things: first, the author’s footnotes are interspersed, seemingly randomly, through the text, in a way that interrupts the train of exposition.  Added to that is the reality that GOOGLE Translate can only go so far in unlocking the subtleties of the written French.  But, let’s attempt to unlock it anyway.


It should also be noted that the author refers, on a few occasions to an earlier, more elaborately decorated vessel.  This is a reference to an earlier passage in the text describing one of the few original drawings of a first-rate, by Puget, which survived a major fire at the Toulon arsenal.  This drawing may have been created as representative of a type, or style of ornamentation, as opposed to a scheme prepared for a specific ship; there was no allegory furnished for the tafferal of this drawing.  Also, it is a bit confusing that the author refers to Soleil Royal as a second-rate ship, when clearly she was always intended to be a key representative of the Premier Rang Extraordinaire.


The lower transom up to the stern counter, below the lower stern balcony (which it seems is actually a projecting balcony in this early description), is here being called the “vault.”  The “jaumiere” is the hole in the counter through which the rudder head passes.


Now as compared with perhaps the mostly highly ornamented vessel known, the Royal Louis of 1668, the lower transom as described for SR is relatively plain.  Here is the Royal Louis:



Every square inch of surface is covered with elaborate ornament.  In contrast, this area on SR is described as being rather plain, with some simple mouldings and a mascaroon covering the Jaumier.  Stylistically, this is consistent with Berain’s drawing of the lower transom.


The author goes on to describe the area where the ship’s name is displayed, which it seems, is still the projecting middle stern balcony that extends fully to the quarters and provides a seat for two “warrior” figures; the allegorical Americas and Africa, in Berain’s styling.


As with Berain, this balcony is supported by allegorical figures representing the four seasons.  From port to starboard, there is the same hooded, male figure of Winter, followed by female figures of Spring and Summer.  The last figure of Fall is described by the author as also being female, yet, Berain’s Fall is clearly a male figure.


The name plaque, as described by the author, is similarly framed with delicate arabesque scrolling, much as it appears to be on Berain’s drawing, also, the remainder of small complementary ornament described by the author is consistent with that shown by Berain: reverse-crossed Ls, for the  King’s monogram, fleur-de-lis and lambrequin embellished surfaces as seen on Berain’s lower false gallery, the lower stern balcony of RL, and the lower stern balcony in this Puget sketch of the Dauphin Royal:


The Dauphin Royal, here, is probably a good example of the more profuse earlier style of accompanying ornament, as compared with the more pared down stylings of Berain.  Also of note on the DR is the presence of medium-sized full-sculptural figures, that probably reflect Colbert’s insistence that Puget reduce the grand scale of these figures, after 1670.  As the author notes, SR also exhibits fully realized figures, but much reduced in scale.  This is likely a good illustration of that reduction, in action.


Next, the author goes on to describe the warrior figures.  The implication is that these figures are both male, yet Berain appears to have drawn female figures.  The head dress described, to port, is consistent with that shown on Berain’s Americas figure, as is the posture of repose.  Whether Berain has drawn a male or female figure, here, is largely ambiguous; the arms, legs and torso of the Americas appear masculine and strong, yet there is the faint suggestion of a bossom.  The Africa figure in Berain’s drawing is almost completely androgynous.  Tanneron’s modeling of these statues, and Heller’s by extension, is distinctly female.


A key difference, though, between what is described and what is displayed in Berain’s drawing would be the figure of Africa; the helmet embellished with ostrich feathers is at complete odds with Berain’s elephantine headdress.


As the description continues, It becomes confusing to me as to whether the author is describing the quarter pieces, just over the shoulders of America and Africa, in Berain’s drawing, which also support the side lanterns.  The author notes that there are no side lanterns on the ship he is describing, which would not be consistent with a first-rate ship of this stature.  Anyway, this is what he describes:


These sides are formed of an inverted console whose notch accommodated at the reentrant part of the flanks of the building, at the height of the second battery. A bust of a woman carrying on the head a basket of flowers for one, fruit for the other, comes out of the small winding of these consoles.”


It is very difficult to parse meaning from this, but the notch he refers to may the tapering curve of the pedestal supporting these busts, which allow room for the America’s and Africa.  If so, that would be consistent with Barain, excepting the side lantern issue.  The author mentions, though, that these figures extend down to the middle deck battery.  That is clearly not the case in Berain’s drawing.  There is, however, a suggestion of something like that in this more primitive drawing that is supposed to be representative of SR:


 Is that smaller figure between the large female statue and the side lantern (this drawing has them) supposed to be the Americas?  I have no idea, really.  The drawing is too primitive to say.


Once again, though, a clearer image of this painting (below) might provide an answer to that question.  It is interesting to note that the author describes the upper stern balcony as being a mere flat facade, with no projection.  That certainly seems to be what is shown here:


To conclude with the reverse-curved tafferal arch, and the figures of Europe and Asia, interspersed by the large crown base of the central lantern - the figure of Europe is described by the author exactly as it is drawn by Berain.  Asia, though, while she still holds a small urn (however “carelessly” or not), there is no plant sprouting from the urn, in Berain’s drawing, nor is there a docile tiger at her feet.  A tiger, it would seem, is a more fitting symbol of Asia than a camel, but perhaps Berain is suggesting some change in the geo-political landscape of 1688.


Finally, the tafferal carving of Apollo, or Pheobus (ray of light, in Greek mythology) is identical in the description to Berain’s drawing.


As stated in a prior post, I believe that Berain shaded the figures of the Americas, Europe, the port quarter piece and the tafferal carving of Apollo because these elements of ornament likely were salvaged and re-used in 1689.  The congruence between Berain’s drawing and the author’s description of these carvings suggests that may be so.  According to that rationale, though, one might also expect to see the figure of Winter shaded, as well.  Perhaps, though, the four seasons, which were closer to the water, were all too far gone to be saved.  Another, and perhaps more likely, possibility is that all of the four seasons figures had to be re-carved because their posture would now be different, on Berain’s re-made stern; they would now be bent forward as corbels supporting the projecting middle gallery above, from their now recessed perch upon a false lower gallery.  


Anyway, I am sure that the apparent practice of hollowing out the larger figurative works, to save weight, had the un-intended consequence of accelerating their decay.  It’s a theory, anyway.


I think there is enough information, there, to draft a reasonable proposal of early SR’s ornament.  I believe, more than ever, that my fuzzy mystery ship is Soleil Royal, around 1680, shortly after this ornament was completed.  I will continue to comb the archives in an attempt to corroborate these findings.


... And the Butler did it in the drawing room with a wrench.



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As far as I understand it, Druxey, the image of the Royal Louis (in post 854), above the clearer and more detailed image of the RL that Heinrich provided, is just another portrait of the RL by another’s hand.  Taken in their respective whole, they represent almost exactly the same stern, with only minor differences.  The better drawing, I believe, is the hand of Puget.  I don’t know who did the more approximate drawing, or quick sketch.

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Here is a really excellent overview of the art and process of development for French naval ornamentation, from the time of Louis XIV, through the end of the Ancien Regime.  This was put together bu the Musee de la Marine and translates very well in Google:



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One particular point of interest, from the link above, is the letter that Colbert writes to Intendant De Seuil, at Brest, concerning the French’s approaching visit to the Channel in 1672.


Colbert’s concern is that these magnificently worked sterns will be ridiculed by the English, for their exaggerated opulence.


That is why, on the occasion of this visit in 1672, the Van de Veldes record the appearance of the French fleet as being markedly different from that which we have come to associate with the first incarnations of the Royal Louis and the Monarch.


It would seem that Colbert was as keen on eliminating any “embarrassment” of navigation as he was in eliminating any embarrassment of French national pride, before their English rivals. 


Among a number of other ships present were SR’s sister, La Reyne - formerly Le Royal Duc, but renamed prior to this visit, and her ornamental scheme altered.




These well known starboard quarter and port bow portraits - which confirm the piercing for 16 on the lower, main battery - display a style of ornamentation that already seems much closer to what we will see in the late 1680s. At this time, in 1672, the functional officer’s toilet, on the lowest level of the quarter gallery is enclosed; again, no embarrassing potty functions of the French officers before the English, whose quarters were fully enclosed.  The only thing that is missing from La Reyne (as what will later become a regular ornamental feature) is the shallow-relief amortisement of the quarter gallery, from the main deck level up.


Likewise, Orgiuellieux, displays an almost identical ornamental and structural style as La Reyne.


The Terrible and La Royal Therese (formerly the Paris) are also significantly reduced in ornamental extravagance.


One person I am familiar with asserts that the following scheme for the Dauphin Royal was not ever  employed.


This stance, in my opinion, seems unlikely when one considers the DR’s original appearance.  By comparison, the new mode, while still lavish, is a much better balanced and harmonious composition.  Also, I might add, this is not a proposal drawing, in two dimensions, of the stern, quarters and bow.  This is a three-dimensional perspective drawing of a ship on the water, being fitted out at the Arsenal; in other words, a portrait of something that came into being.


As a side note, I realize that I tend to re-post a lot of the same imagery, but that is a deliberate practice, as I come to a clearer contextual understanding of the ways in which French ships of the First Marine evolved.  When I started this BLOG, I had very little context for any of this imagery.  Slowly, though, I am getting there.


One person who is building a really great database of French ships on FLIKR, many of them VDVs from this visit in 1672, is someone who calls himsef ModernKnight1.




He has extensive databases for English and Dutch ships, but the French collection is very good.  Perhaps the most intriguing VDV is a large second-rate that is just a little too faint to read clearly, but clearly a magnificent vessel, all the same.

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So, jumping back to Beare’s questions about the color of port lids and wales, today, I found the following by noted and highly respected marine artist Jan Van Beecq:




The third-rate ship, painted with a high degree of authenticity, shows red port lids and blackened wales. Not much, but it’s something.


Also of note, once again, is the relatively long topmasts, as compared with the lower mast.  I do think the Heller topmasts are over-long, but perhaps not to the degree that people often say.

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I’m a little post-happy, today, but the port side is completed, and I’m about to mark out and mask the starboard waterline.


I also have good natural light in the apartment, at the moment, so you can really see the colors accurately.






I really like how the walnut ink ages the red port linings, and the grey enamel wash did a nice job toning down the ultra-white of the waterline. 


Now, just to repeat it all on the starboard side.

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