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

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A few more details of note.  I have fashioned entry ports, in the lower transom for the rudder chain/rope (nomenclature, Druxey?), from two small discs of styrene.  The backing disc is slightly thinner. These were based directly on Puget’s drawings of the Monarque which - in a rarity of artistic convention for the times - actually shows them:


I also gave flipper his pupils and pectoral fins:


And, I spent a good long time transforming the window frames from flat to softly rounded.  While I did fashion a one-sided moulding scraper from old hacksaw stock, I found this tool exceptionally difficult to control without digging into the frames.  Ultimately, my trusty old Bebe, hooked chip-carving knife was just the thing for creating a series of micro-facets, which were then blended smooth with the well-worn fine-sides of emory sticks that I had cut down to suit my purposes.  The frames look good, and I am happy with them.


In the present, I am using Druxey’s method to fashion the glass panes from acetate, and that is all going swimmingly:


I also made the false quarter gallery lights, but screwed up the engraving on the port side, and will have to re-make that one.  In the next few days, I will buy a suitable shade of grey acrylic and fill-in the leaded cames. Hopefully, I didn’t engrave them too deeply, but the paint will reveal all.  


On the other hand, what has proved to be much less straight-forward - despite the earlier protocol established with the lower transom - is the framing of this next level of the stern.  I had thought the hardest thing about it would be the planking of the lower false gallery/stern counter. I was so wrong about that!


If this post has a title, it would be MODERN PARABOLA’MS, starring ME in the Chevy Chase role, as the utterly baffled modelmaker attempting the unravel the ghostly mysteries of the 17th Century shipwright.


There are a number of things about framing the stern, from scratch, that I did not recognize, from the outset, as being problematic.


For starters, as mentioned in the prior post, there is a certain degree of asymmetry that Heller built into the standard kit.  To this day, I am still baffled as to why it was necessary for me to shift the starboard rear, upper bulkhead forward 1/16”, so that the waist ladder would align, properly, with its counterpart on the lower hull.  Nevertheless, it was necessary to do so, in order to make the whole thing work.


Another thing that I did not realize is just how far out of square the stern skews, as the ship rises above the waterline.  I began my construction by squaring the transom waterline to the ship’s centerline. However, by the time I got to the level of the upper main wale (where the upper bulwarks join the lower hull), the starboard side was projecting a shy ⅛” further aft, than the port side.


I discovered this as I was letting-in the latest transverse bulkhead, taking care to stay square with the centerline.  In this picture, you can see that I am flush, to port, but still an ⅛”-, out, to starboard:


So, the first order of business was to fir-out the aft edge of the bulkhead former to make-up this discrepancy.  After gluing on an extension, I faired the edge from zero, on the port side, to an ⅛”-, at starboard. I then beveled the aft edge, downward, to match the rake of the stern.


In the following picture, you can see the corrected bulkhead, but also a pair of parallel lines, an ⅛” apart, with a diagonal line between them. These lines illustrate the degree that the stern becomes skewed:


Now, this creates all sorts of problems for the framing of vertical bulkheads, which I had already patterned.  I was hoping to salvage the bulkheads I had made so, one at a time, I dry-fit them and then marked at the top of each vertical bulkhead, the point at which it extended beyond the transverse bulkhead.


I also realized, though, that I had not cut-in deeply enough, the stepped juncture between the window plate and what will be the support for the false balcony ledge.  First I marked back a consistent 1/32”+, on each bulkhead. After connecting the top and bottom points, my bulkheads looked like this:


After trimming, I again offered each bulkhead to its place, to check for fit.  The top juncture was now just slightly proud. This allows for a little final fairing, once all of the bulkheads are glued in place.  I noticed, though, that the aft edges of the vertical bulkheads were not running parallel with the plank rabbets, at the ship’s sides.  This discrepancy, in turn, necessitated an additional 1/32”+ trimming at the false balcony shelf juncture. So, at least now, the window plate is evenly supported across all of the vertical bulkheads without any one of them forcing the plate out of its proper position.


This whole exercise in reconciliation has been a domino-fall of discovered mis-calculations and erroneous assumptions.  I next discovered that I had made no allowance for the plank thickness of the stern counter/false balcony, and will next need to cut that back 1/32”, all around.

After all of that, though, the bulkheads should be ready for glue.


So, finally, onto the parabola’m that my post title alludes to.  While I make my living working as a carpenter, I have to admit that I am not particularly strong at math.  Wherever possible, I try to take the pencil and paper calculation out of my project work. Occasionally, this short-coming of mine rears up and bites me!


I mentioned, in an earlier post, that I thought the previous transverse bulkhead had a somewhat exaggerated camber.  Observe how the middle of the bulkhead appears to rise higher, towards the window plate, than at the sides:


Well, that’s not what is actually happening here.  First, I compared the bottom edge of the window plate with the camber pattern that I made for glueing up the transverse bulkhead laminations.  Good on me - it’s a perfect fit:


The more I thought about it, though, I realized that the camber pattern came directly from the stock Heller stern plate, which is dead flat.  I, on the other hand, have chosen to model the round-up of the stern, as this is an appropriate architectural detail for the time period.


So, what happens to that joint, when you rake the plate aft, and induce the round-up curve?  Parabola’ms happen, that’s what:


To say that I am somewhat invested in this window plate would be the understatement of the new year.  While my math may be lacking, I am good in the field, as when the shop, for example, sends a custom-made thing for a space that was poorly measured; I can almost always find a way to make it work.


THE WAY, in this case, will be to cover any gaps or discrepancies between the window plate and the stern counter with what will be a fairly generous (3/32”) transitional moulding that wraps to the quarters.


The shape of the top edge of the window plate will inform the camber of the walkable main deck stern balcony, that abutts it.  Now, it is true that this middle balcony will have an ever so slightly flatter camber than the false balcony beneath it. It is also true that the bottom edge of the window frames, out toward the ship sides, will not hug the transitional moulding line as closely as intended.  On the plus side, moving up the stern, I should not encounter this problem again, as I will simply allow the round-up curvature to establish the camber. The camber of all three tiers of windows will be consistent.


In the grand scheme of things, these are nits that I prefer not to pick.  I’m pretty sure I can live with the results. I hope this cautionary tale will be helpful to anyone else out there who might be planning a similar foray into plastic surgery.

Edited by Hubac's Historian

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After finally resolving the fairness of my bulkheads, I made ready to install them.  Taking a lesson from the prior two levels, on this go-round I decided to glue in opposing indexing tabs for each bulkhead, prior to installation.


Each tab (excepting the center bulkhead) is beveled to accommodate the angle of the bulkhead.  I took this precaution because the specific placement of the bulkheads is now of critical importance; they must remain as close to center of the pilasters, as possible, so that I will still have room on the interior to glue-in retaining strips for the window glasses.



I could also, now, fix the position of the jaumier ornament.  Before doing so, I glued a backer to the head for the counter plank-ends to land on.  In the picture above, I have glued-in the head to the framing of the stern counter, along the centerline of the ship, and cross-checking to make sure I was centered on my window plate.


The starboard side covering board, that abuts this ornament is being fitted.  I’ve deliberately filed a small bevel where the covering board joins the face because every succeeding layer of planking and moulding will be similarly beveled in order to create a sense that the ornament is set into the stern counter.


Now, with both covering boards installed, and their edges faired, I could proceed with the risky business of letting the acanthus scrolls into the transom planking.  Again, the reason for doing this - as opposed to simply surface mounting the scrolls - is that I really wanted to reduce (by half) the gap between the scroll volutes and the head.


This is a calculated gamble that I will be able to dress the front face of the covering boards sufficiently with moulding, in order to create a seamless transition.  After much checking and re-checking for position, the initial excavation did not look promising:


Because of the way that this last transom plank fays into the transverse bulkhead, it was not initially clear to me whether I had broken through the plank to get to the bulkhead.  To be clear - I wanted to break through, because the bulkhead is my mounting surface.

I wasn’t sure weather to keep digging, or to stop and fair the bottom of my mortise.  Just a little further, though, and I saw daylight.  With a lot of careful inletting, I eventually arrived at my cleaned-up mortises:

And, here are the scrolls glued-in, from a variety of angles:





In hindsight, I kind of wish that I had glued some material to the backside of the acanthus scrolls, so that I could have created a more rounded relief, but such as it is, the carving will do just fine.


Edited by Hubac's Historian

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9 minutes ago, Hubac's Historian said:

Before doing so, I glued a backer to the head for the counter plank ends to land on.

As always great work.

But, why is someone from my family glued to your model?


Greetings from Backer

( My last name is De Backer)😉



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Quite the saga, HH. I do sympathise: it's tough enough getting the geometry correct even when things are symmetrical, but when they aren't.... I assume trimming back the starboard side of the model back a bit was not an option to even the stern up more? Your workmanship is lovely, though. Reminds me of a bone or ivory model.

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As ever, thank you all for the likes and looking in.


Backer, I’d gladly take one of you over 10 able-bodied shipwrights!


That approach, Druxey, would be highly feasible if the sheer of the stern didn’t rise above that level.  The trouble is that trimming back from zero to an eighth, at the main deck level, would necessitate an even more extreme trimming back of the upper bulwarks, as well.


When all is said and done, I may have trimmed from zero to over a 1/4”, and I really can’t afford to lose that real estate on the upper bulwarks, which were extended, at the outset, in order to accommodate the new quarter gallery.  There is a lot going on up there.

My hope is that the stern, at the height of the tafferal, won’t appear visibly out of square.  The good news is that I only have one wrapping balcony to deal with, at this level, where the discrepancy is not noticeable.


We’ll see - it may come down to a little theater trickery to minimize perception of error.  Hopefully, not.

Although, if I really want to kill my own buzz, I suppose I could hold 6” Starretts up to the aft edges of the lower hull, and read them like winding sticks - just to see how much trouble lays ahead.


Let’s take a vote - should I ruin my weekend before it starts, or bury my head until Monday?

Edited by Hubac's Historian

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Alright, so I just got home from my daughter’s rousing talent show performance of Hamilton.  A pleasant diversion, if ever there was one.


Of course I couldn’t resist taking a few measurements, once I was home.  Taking a closer look, at the main deck level, the stern is actually 3/32” out of square.  When you add the upper bulwarks, this grows to 5/32” at the tafferal.  Visually, if you did not know this was the case, it would not jump out at you.


Holding a straight edge across the span, then yes, it becomes somewhat apparent.  It isn’t terrible, though, and the gentle arc of the round-up should help conceal this problem.


It kind of is what it is, at this point.  The fact that I am making all of the visible decks from scratch also helps things, a bit.  I would love to know whether the stock kit is similarly out of square. While it’s true that I flattened the aft edges of the stock lower hull, so that I could add extensions, I doubt that I was so careless as to completely change the rake of the stern, from one side to the other.  And I know that the extension pieces were perfectly parallel. 


Anyway, it will all work out just fine, I think.

Edited by Hubac's Historian

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This evening, I decided upon a plank width for my stern counter; 9/64”, strong.  This width affords me a little leeway to fair beneath the moulding that will support the four seasons caryatids.  On other words, I can plank with three boards.


Much of the evening was spent planking just one side of the first course.  Along with the compound curvature of camber and round-up, one must bevel the downward edge of the board, for the rake of the stern.  All, while trying not to diminish the uniform plank width.


My plan is to true up the top edge of the false balcony, as necessary, and according to how I want my top moulding (that serves as the base for the four seasons figures) to align with the bottom of the window frames.


We (and our ships) are all works in process - all of the time.  Thank you for being here.



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The stern is really coming together. You are making a strong argument for plastic modeling! The details you are achieving are incredible. I have never really thought about using plastic as a base for carvings, but I may need to look into it and experiment some for my Royal Louis build.

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Believe it or not, aside from heat-bending the bow extension pieces, the aspect of this whole project that has given me the most trepidation is the planking of the stern counter/false balcony.  The reason being that this feature of stern architecture took me the longest time to even understand.


Initially, I thought this reverse curve was a seamless transition into the lower tier of lights.  The St. Philippe monograph, on the other hand, illustrated that, no, there needs to be a slight projection away from the plane of lights; a sort of shelf, if you will, that ultimately supports a fairly substantial transitional moulding.  


This transitional moulding/shelf supports the four seasons figures that support the walkable balcony above.  Not only that, but the run of the counter must smoothly accommodate the compound curves of camber and round-up, around one particularly tight bulkhead radius.


Taking a look back, before paint, and in relation to Mr. Lemineur’s drawing of the stern, you can see that my extension piece is absent of this ledge:


Once I realized this mistake, I grafted a ledge extension into the existing plank rebate of my first extension, and then recut that planking rebate into the shelf extension; all very fiddly business, and in the absence of a comprehensive plan to work from, the shape I patterned for this shelf was something of an aesthetic approximation.  As the build has progressed through the fairing of these bulkheads, these extensions have been pared down to their final shape.


As a side note, it is kind of hilarious to me that I took such pains to cut this plank rebate into the ends of the lower hull and upper bulwarks - both to provide a glue ledge for the plank ends, and also to bring the side plank butt ends down to scale - only to realize that in the end, they will mostly be covered.  Except for the area between the waterline and the transom moulding, everything above gets covered; first by the wrap-around of the quarter gallery lower finishing, and then, by pilaster mouldings, all above. At least the beakhead bulkhead will still show this detail 😕


Digressions aside - one must finally add to this equation the fact that I want to seamlessly incorporate Louis’ angelic little head into the run of the counter, and all of that becomes quite challenging to make look right.


While laying the lowest, first course of counter planking, I realized that I would be better served by simply butting the planks flush with the edges of the head ornament, and not adding that slight bevel to the plank edges around the head.  The reason for this is that the border that the head creates is kind of irregular and a little jagged.


Following all of that closely with a bevel - no matter how carefully done - would look jagged and horrible.  Because there will be at least another two planking layers around the head, I can create a smooth radius around the head, with those layers, and then bevel them, inward toward the head, in order to give it a sense of concavity.


With that all settled, the first two courses went down smoothly.  The run, along the bulkheads, there, is fairly flat. I was very careful to let-in as closely as I could around the crown.  For the third, and top-most course, around the tight radius of the bulkhead frames, I discovered that I needed a plank just a little bit wider than the 5/32” that I used for the two coarses above.


I was hoping to avoid laying two very narrow planks, so instead I ripped one plank to 3/16”+, and then engraved a line down it’s center, on the plank backside.  This effectively created a bending crease that eased the transition around this tight radius, while eliminating any possibility of plank gaps. So, the rough, before fairing, was looking pretty promising:


After fairing, things were looking a lot better.  I sanded the top edge of the counter planking so that I would have an even 1/16” space, beneath the window frames, for the transitional moulding.  This enabled me to fit and glue-in the pilasters between windows. I will be trimming the tops of these pilasters flush with the window plate, before glueing, and the outer pilasters will be glued in after the plate is installed, because they overlay the ship’s side planking:



I can now go ahead and spray-prime the window plate, so that I can paint-in the inner edges of the window frames with yellow ocher, before installing the glass panes.


So, now that we have a good and fair foundation to work from, I can begin playing with the artistic layout of the counter.  Here is what Berain drew:


The layout revolves around this central panel, spanning the middle four windows, which projects further outboard than the paneled sides.  Interspersed along the counter, are the four pedestal bases that visually support the Four Seasons figures. These pedestals will stand proud of their respective backing surfaces, and the central two must project far enough that they are just proud of the lambrequin carving that bridges between them.


If I get the proportions of all of this right, and the shape and raking angles of the pedestal bases aesthetically right, then the entire ensemble will convey a similar sense of elegant proportion, even though the profile of my stern is more vertically oriented, and less sloping than what Berain drew.  This is an artistic process that begins, simply by sketching a few primary parameters directly onto the model; in this case, the outside edges of the central panel, as well as the circular framework of the paneled sides:


It is the pilasters between the 1st and 2nd/5th and 6th windows that mark the location for the figures of Spring and Summer, and thus delineate the outside breadth of the central panel.


In the Tanneron version, there is no circular paneling to the sides of the  central panel.  He seems, instead, to have created these circular medallions:


To include this detail on my model, I will have to strike a delicate balance between the diameter of those circles, so that there is enough space left over for the paneled sections to either side of the circles.  This may mean reducing the outer breadth of the central section, and simplifying the design to only include the raised cyma projection of the pedestals, themselves.


In my rough sketching, above, I’ve drawn two dotted lines.  The outer line represents the raised ground to which the pedestal is mounted, as Berain designed it.  If I eliminate that line, I’ll have a little extra room for the side panels. Tonight, I’ll make better sketches and see where I end up.


Once I like the spacing of all the various elements, I’ll make an oak tag tracing pattern for the center pedestals, and a pattern for the outer pedestals, which are raked at a different angle.  I can then use the middle pedestal pattern to draw the outer breadth of the center section, so that I can begin planking that section.


The oak tag patterns, together, can then be used to frame-in the side panel shapes onto slightly thinner styrene sheet.  All will become clearer, as I go.


As ever, thank you for your likes, comments and looking in.



Edited by Hubac's Historian

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Designing of these reverse-curve pedestals and the paneling, in-between, has been giving me fits.  As a reminder of Berain’s layout:


This is a challenging thing to approximate onto the Heller architecture.  My first break in drawing came after much erasing and re-drawing, and I still wasn’t happy with the result:


I liked the in-board pedestal shape, but I didn’t like the relationship of rake, relative to the outboard pedestal.  I also wasn’t quite sure that the circle was the right diameter.


After allowing it to sit for a few days, I came to a realization about Berain’s drawing.  Although he does indicate balcony overhangs with shadowing, the drawing is, otherwise, presented as thoroughly one-dimensional, without any foreshortening of perspective for the rake of the stern.


In other words, in order to arrive at a closer impression of what he drew, one must design with the more likely vantage point in mind; as though you were looking at it straight-on, but from a level plane or above.


After much re-drawing, here is how the shapes change when viewed from below:


And then, above:


Now, the layout looked right to me, or at least as close to right as the Heller architecture will allow.


Once I was sure that I liked my shapes, I double stuck a scrap of vellum to just beneath the crease of the stern counter.  I, then used my finger nail to sharpen that crease into the vellum.


Then, very carefully, I mapped the reverse curves and paneling onto the vellum with a series of dots that were close enough to accurately fair them, once the paper was removed.


After glue-sticking the paper to a scrap of oaktag, I faired and darkened all of my lines, and finally cut out the three main elements with a sharp matte-knife:

It may appear that the top reveal above the panel is too large, however, there will be a small cove moulding beneath the overhang of the top transitional moulding, and this will balance out the weight of the reveals. As for the bottom reveal, the aforementioned foreshortening of perspective takes care of that issue.


Next, I could use the inner pedestal patterns to demarcate the central raised panel, for planking.  I also traced the outer pedestal profiles, though, to be sure that I liked the layout. I made one last check with old man winter (the widest of the four seasons figures) to make sure that I was happy with this:



As a side note - the transitional top moulding will run between the Four Seasons figures and the pedestal bases.  Both Berain and Tanneron present this as a seamless transition.  I, however, do not have enough space to make wider pedestals AND present the more elaborated lambrequin carving.  Allowing the top moulding to run between them will nullify their difference in width, as the figures will be fully supported by the moulding. Or, so I think...  As I often say, this build is a reconciliation of sources and a compromise in execution.


Finally, I got to planking the next layer.  This time, I created a neat radius around the head and crown.  I won’t bevel that radius, though, until the final framing layer of moulding, between the inner pedestals, is applied.  I nipped the outboard profile of this second planking just a little past my lines; that way I can trim everything flush with the pedestal appliques, after they are applied.


One of the trickier things to keep in mind is that the bottom course, of this second layer, has to be beveled so that it does not interfere with the bottom moulding that helps frame the stern counter, and which I will make, once all the layers and pedestals are in place.  The reason for that sequencing is that the top and bottom transitional mouldings have to overhang everything in-between, and I don’t want to guess where all of that may end up. The port side course was beveled flush, after being set in place. The starboard course has only been pre-beveled, so far.


One last consideration is that the counter profile actually extends beyond the tumblehome profile of the stern:


I’m not 100% sure how I will resolve this, just yet, but my inclination is to leave an overhang on the outboard paneling layer (with the circle, and to which the outboard pedestals are mounted, and allow the counter level of the quarter gallery to butt up behind it.  This will create the small step that seems to be implied in Berain’s drawing.


So, that’s where things stand, so far.  I hope all is well with you all, and thank you for looking in.


Edited by Hubac's Historian

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This stern is the ultimate expression of my father's dictum, "Never make thing simple if you can make it complicated"! You are making good headway on interpreting this incredibly complex area of the ship. I appreciate the amount of thought that you've put into this project.

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:piratebo5: Marc,

great that you continue to show us your incredible work on the rear facade. I admire your perseverance and skill.👍


I hope it doesn't bother if I ask, at a competent point, which French Flagship of the line could be in Calais in 1673?
The French ship seems to have brought Mary of Modena to this port city. Maybe a Ship from the Levant Fleet or Ponant, and which?

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I appreciate that, Druxey.  In many ways this stern has been the most challenging thing that I have ever tried to make.  Within the next few days, I’ll have an update showing the completed stern counter and the many steps in its evolution.  The lambrequin carving came out particularly well, and the whole assemblage is pleasing.  As always, I appreciate your support and insight through this process.

Well, Chapman, I found this:



While the portrait description is quite detailed, it does not make specific mention of the French flagship, to the left:


Given that this portrait is the work of Jacob Knyff, it can be reasonably relied upon for accuracy in representation of the general aspect of the vessel.


After several attempts, I was able to zoom-in:




Despite the fuzziness, a few things are apparent.  The lower battery is pierced for 15.  The main deck battery does appear to be continuous through the waist.  Finally, the presence of the three large stern lanterns and the Royal standard signify a flagship.


I scanned through a journal of Mary of Modena, from this time, and could find no specific mention of the French ships, except to say that it was a squadron of four.


Similarly, I struck out when consulting Winfield and Roberts, as none of the Premier Rang Extraordinaire vessels from this time have any annotation in their service notes for the transport of Mary of Modena.


Based on what is known about the Dauphin Royal, both in her original and revised ornamental schemes, the quarter gallery shown above does not seem to correspond.


So far as I know - beyond her sea trials, Soleil Royal did not serve in any official capacity until after her refit.


The vessel pictured above seems to have little in common with either the Monarque or the Royal Louis.


The fighting cloths obscure whether the forecastle is armed, as well as how many guns are carried on the quarter deck.  In fact, it’s really difficult to ascertain how many guns there really are.


My best guess, however, is that this ship may be La Reyne:


The figureheads don’t match, nor does any of the other beakhead detail, exactly, but the general aspect is very similar.


The main deck ports for both portraits are shown with port lids.


Lastly, there appear to be two small main deck windows, just above what may be the enclosed lower section of the quarter gallery.  And there appears to be an open archway at the point where a walkable quarter gallery would wrap to the stern.

Also, the large “onion” lanterns seem similar, and the shape of the tafferal could be read as compatible with each other.


One unusual feature is the apparent inclusion of an entry port/larger gunport, on the middle deck level, where one is accustomed to seeing that feature on English ships.


Anyway, this is my best guess.  I hope that is helpful.

Edited by Hubac's Historian

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Hello Marc,

thank you for your answer.

In my view, the argument against Reine is that the well-known V.d.V drawings. shown by you above, should have originated in 1673. And she shows 15 gun ports + 1 chase port on the lower deck.


At the moment I think it could be the Superbe. It was one of a two ship class upgraded in 1673 to ship of the line  with 3 gun decks

There is a Van de Velde drawing that shows the bow of one of the two ships. the Superbe in 1672, after Solebay where she participated, could show that before her modification . I consider the simple figurehead, a lion, shown on the V.d.V drawing as a reference. The number of gun ports 14 +1 chase port and the overall appearance Likewise.
Indeed both ships in the class were upgraded in this way. The Superbe, however, was after Solebay 1672 the first and could have been available for this event in 1673.


Source: National Maritime Museum

Superbe von vorne frage oder Schwester.jpg

Source: Wikipedia/NMM

Französischer Dreidecker in Calais 1673.png

Edited by Chapman

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Chapman, I’m inclined to agree with you, that the Knyff portrait is probably La Superbe.  I was not aware that she and her sister Orgieullieux were up-graded to three-deckers.


I have to say that cross-referencing Winfield and Roberts with portraits of both Superbe and Orgieullieux by VdV, only seems to add to the confusion.  Here is what W&R have to say about how the armament of these two ships evolved:

As you say, Chapman, Superbe was the first to be modified, in 1673.  From 1674, presumably after upgrades had also been completed for Orgielliuex, the maximum armament both ships carried was 76 guns.


All well and good.  It becomes a bit more confusing when you count guns in each respective portrait.


The foreshortened view of Superbe’s starboard bow makes it difficult to count cannon barrels reliably, so I prefer to count port lids.  On the lower battery, excluding the forward-most chase port, VdV actually has drawn 15 port lids.  The upper battery shows 13 definite ports, and one mostly erased port, just behind the cathead knee.  The QD shows six ports and the FC, 3.  Two ports are shown on the poop.  Add up what can be seen, and excluding the lower battery hunting port, that amounts to a broadside of 39 (15+13+9+2), or an armament of 78.


Now, given her listed length between perpendiculars of 151 French feet, I find it highly improbable that she was pierced for sixteen (including the hunting port), on the lower battery.  Chalk that extra fifteenth armed port per side to a drawing error, reduce the armament by two guns, accordingly, and then you arrive at 76.  This, at least corresponds to W&R.


Now, let’s take a look at Orgieullieux, from her starboard stern quarter.


Here, VDV shows 14 definite lids on the low battery, but an extra two barrels, peaking beyond that, from the starboard bow.  Considering the foreshortened view, and assuming that VDV is also taking artistic license, in showing an armed hunting port (as he did with Superbe), that would amount to 15+1.  Again, given the L.O.D., I find this improbable.


With less ambiguity, he also shows  14 port lids on the upper battery.


Presumably, there are 3 FC guns, and definitely there are six QD guns shown.  But then, VDV shows three poop deck guns, as opposed to Superbe’s 2.


So, deduct the hunting port, as well as the improbable 15th lower battery gun, and add up everything else that’s visible:

14+14+9+3, for a broadside of 40, and a total armament of 80 guns.


Even if you take away two of those poop deck guns in 1685, that still only brings you down to an armament of 78 which is, yet, two more than the maximum armament listed by W&R.


All of this is to say - if your head isn’t spinning by now, then you are a special individual!


What is interesting to me is that both of these portraits must represent these ships after they were up-graded to three-deckers in 1673/74, and yet the waist is not built up, in any way, nor armed to reflect a continuous third deck battery.


The only conclusion that I can draw from this is that the deck between the former quarter deck and forecastle was made whole, thus bridging the structure into one continuous deck, even if the waist was not also subsequently built up and armed.


Despite the discrepancies in what is portrayed in these VdV portraits, vs. W&R’s research, it seems that the armament upgrades, post 1673/74, were to the poop deck, alone.  Had the waist also been armed, as seems apparent in the Knyff portrait, an additional three guns, per side, would have been plausible, but that is way more than what is  either shown or listed.


So, returning to what can be seen of the armament in the Knyff portrait, I count the following:


Excluding the lower battery hunting port, I clearly see 15 guns; including a gun barrel that is just visible behind the cathead knee, and including the apparent entry port, I count 12 middle battery guns; on the main deck battery, including the bridged waist guns, I count 11 definite guns, and perhaps one more hidden behind the cathead for 12; the poop deck is especially hard to read - I think I see at least one gun, and maybe two.  For this tabulation, I am not including any of the guns shown protruding from the beakhead bulkhead.


So, what do we have?


15+12+12+2=41, or a total armament of 82.  Now, if you reduce the lower battery by at least two, that brings you down to 80, although a reduction of four, on the lower battery, would make better sense of the arrangement of guns on the above decks.


In any case, whether the truth of this Knyff ship was actually 78, or 80 or 82 guns, that falls far short of the known armament of La Reine, at 102-104 guns.  So, although the numbers don’t exactly correspond with the lists, I will have to agree with you that the apparent artillery is much more in line with that of Superbe, than La Reine - even if the waist is shown as armed.


When we get into these ambiguities of ship identification, I personally like to fall back on apparent artillery as a more reliable gauge of ship identity.  That is why I persistently argue that the following portrait (as well as the starboard quarter portrait that is actually inscribed the Grand Monarque) is actually of the Monarque, and not the Royal Louis:


There is no armed forecastle, here, and even if there was, the total armament would fall far short of RL’s 104.  There is no armed poop deck in these portraits, either.  Add to that a number of ornamental inconsistencies, and the distinction between these two ships becomes even clearer.  Anyway, please forgive my digression.


While the Van de Veldes And Puget are the best documentarians of what these ships really looked like, even they were likely to have introduced errors and inconsistencies into their drawings, or so it seems to me.

Edited by Hubac's Historian

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It looks like V.d.V. Problems with perspective at the gun ports. In the front area of the lower battery, he had to correct the position of the piece gates. There is one gate too many.
As I wrote it should be 14 gates and 1 hunting gate. Then the distribution also matches the upper gun deck.


Source: NMM


In my view, the exact total number of guns for identification is secondary. First of all, the number of gun ports cut into the hull is important

It is easy to place guns on the upper decks. They can shoot over low parapets. And additional gun ports are also easier to install there. It's mostly a matter of top weight.

Edited by Chapman

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Aha!!  Finally a better image of this other mystery ship.  I’ve been guessing that this is Le Terrible.  Maybe now that I can see some detail, we can draw some conclusions about this beauty!!


Thank you for posting this, Chapman!

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Interestingly, I thought I was going to launch into an over/under comparison of these two images, however, they are pretty clearly distinctly different portraits.  Very similar, but different.


I still think the top image may be the Terrible, but that is only based upon the sketchiest similarities to this portrait, identified by Winfield and Roberts as the Terrible (and not the Royal Therese, as it is often ascribed):


There is also this portrait, which shares a number of attributes:


So, I have no conclusions I can draw from this, but I am very happy to add this ship to my image files.


Anyone else, out there, who might have similar portraits hiding in their libraries - please feel free to post them here.


The Terrible, as another Hubac-built ship, is an important reference for my forensic reconstruction efforts.  Good images, like the one Chapman posted, provide a wealth of interesting details.


Most VdV drawings of the French fleet do not show drift rails along the upper bulwarks, but this one does.


Similarly, details of the amortisement are rarely present, yet here is a pretty good indication of this ship’s entire quarter gallery.  La Reine, for example, is not drawn with a quarter gallery amortisement, yet it seems likely that such an important ship would have had an ornamental upper finishing to the QG.

In my image files, I found this clearer image of L’Orgieullieux from her port quarter:


Edited by Hubac's Historian

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Chapman, do you have an even clearer image of this portrait, or do you know where it resides?


Maybe I’m seeing things - it is extremely faint - but there appears to be an inscription along the bottom left edge:


It was common practice for the VdVeldes to inscribe the portraits with the ship name - often in their own creative Dutch spelling.


If you enlarge your screen, you can maybe see what I mean:  a script inscription.

Edited by Hubac's Historian

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