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The Fighting Temeraire

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ProfilePosted byOptionsPost Date


Sharron Report 26 Feb 2013 11:27

What do you think, is it morning or evening?


Sharron Report 26 Feb 2013 11:36

I'll start then!

Quite controversially, I see it as a dirty,smoggy morning and the beautiful Temeraire as symbolizing the Enlightenment.

That quite startlingly phallic black steam tug I see as rape of society.It is dragging the beauty of the Enlightenment into the dark depravity of the Industrial Revolution.

Over to you?!


+++DetEcTive+++ Report 26 Feb 2013 12:02

Evening (I cheated ;-))


Sharron Report 26 Feb 2013 12:03

Where did you look?


RolloTheRed Report 26 Feb 2013 12:06

Interesting. Wiki gives the timing as sunset.

However before being broken up the ship was at Sheerness and the tug is taking it up river i.e. going west towards Rotherhithe. There is nowhere upriver of Rotherhithe that could have berthed a second rater at that time.
If it was the morning then the wind would have been blowing west to east, much more likely than the other way.

I had always assumed sunset but now you ask morning looks to be correct especially when you read this:
"up the Thames" - the sun is behind the ship so she was sailing east, it can only have been morning.

"Sale and disposal

Kennedy received orders from the Admiralty in June 1838 to have Temeraire valued in preparation for her sale out of the service. She fired her guns for the last time on 28 June in celebration of the coronation of Queen Victoria, and work began on dismantling her on 4 July.[56] Kennedy delegated this task to Captain Sir John Hill, commander of HMS Ocean.[56] Her masts, stores and guns were all removed and her crew paid off, before Temeraire was put up for sale with twelve other ships. She was sold by Dutch auction on 16 August 1838 to John Beatson, a shipbreaker based at Rotherhithe for £5,530.[56][64] Beatson was then faced with the task of transporting the ship 55 miles from Sheerness to Rotherhithe, the largest ship to have attempted this voyage.[56][64] To accomplish this he hired two steam tugs from the Thames Steam Towing Company and employed a Rotherhithe pilot named William Scott and twenty five men to sail her up the Thames, at a cost of £58.[56][f]
Last voyage
Print of the hull of a sailing ship without masts or rigging aground on mud beside a river.
Temeraire laid up at Beatson's Yard, Rotherhithe, by artist J. J. Williams, 1838–39

The tugs took the hulk of the Temeraire in tow at 7:30 am on 5 September, taking advantage of the beginning of the slack water. They had reached Greenhithe by 1:30 pm at the ebb of the tide, where they anchored overnight.[56] They resumed the journey at 8:30 am the following day, passing Woolwich and then Greenwich at noon. They reached Limehouse Reach shortly afterwards and brought her safely to Beatson's Wharf at 2 pm. The Temeraire was hauled up onto the mud, where she lay as she was slowly broken up.[56] The final voyage was announced in a number of papers, and thousands of spectators came to see her towed up the Thames or laid up at Beatson's yard.[65] The shipbreakers undertook a thorough dismantling, removing all the copper sheathing, rudder pintles and gudgeons, copper bolts, nails and other fastenings to be sold back to the Admiralty. The timber was mostly sold to house builders and shipyard owners, though some was retained for working into specialist commemorative furniture.[56]"


SuffolkVera Report 26 Feb 2013 12:06

I'm gobsmacked Sharron. You've certainly seen a lot in it. I'll look at it with new eyes now.

It must be evening mustn't it? The sun is setting and there is a tiny crescent of moon just above the Temeraire. I think there is quite a bit of artistic licence there as apparently the sun should be setting in front of the ship rather than behind it.

Not sure what it means. Perhaps it is just a commentary on the decline of Britain's naval power. I also vaguely remember reading something a while ago about the ship representing Turner himself contemplating his own death. I don't get that just from looking at the picture though.

Interesting thread. Hope a few more people post.

EDIT: Whoops I wasn't quick enough.


PatinCyprus Report 26 Feb 2013 12:10

The tug is in the forefront and the sail ships in the background, some almost ghostly. To me the tug is saying I'm the future, I'm stronger, you sail boats are history.

The sun is also setting pointing to the end of the day or could it be an end of an era? The symbol of the industrial revolution and the progress being made perhaps?

The tug is ugly next to the sail ships. Progress may be ugly but it has to happen, perhaps that's the depiction.

Thanks Sharon, I enjoyed this. Got me thinking :-S better go and lie down now ;-)


Sharron Report 26 Feb 2013 12:12

I can see a bit of moon now if I look and it is broad daylight.(Broadish!)

What a dirty old sky for it to try,in it's declining form to try to spread it's beautiful soft light through. Full of the very smogand smuts that are destroying it.

That horrible.devlish little tug represents nothing good in the picture and the ship is so serenely beautiful and helpless.


Paula+ Report 26 Feb 2013 12:21

I think it is supposed to depict a glorious sunset.


Sharron Report 26 Feb 2013 12:22

Does it do that for you?


+++DetEcTive+++ Report 26 Feb 2013 12:31

According to the National Gallery

The painting was thought to represent the decline of Britain's naval power. The 'Temeraire' is shown travelling east, away from the sunset, even though Rotherhithe is west of Sheerness, but Turner's main concern was to evoke a sense of loss, rather than to give an exact recording of the event. The spectacularly colourful setting of the sun draws a parallel with the passing of the old warship. By contrast the new steam-powered tug is smaller and more prosaic.

Look at it from our timeline prospective, I see it more as the decline of the age of sail, and the rise of the more powerful age of steam.


Sharron Report 26 Feb 2013 12:36

That steam powered tug is horrible.

I don't think Turner ever actually stated what time of day it was.


Paula+ Report 26 Feb 2013 12:37

I see dark tug boat, at sunset. pulling an almost ghostly looking sailing ship, a casualty of war.


Sharron Report 26 Feb 2013 12:47

There is a balance of power there. That old ship is lifeless and sad while the nasty little tug is full of life.

Do you feel it is representative of something?


SuffolkVera Report 26 Feb 2013 12:50

Lookiing at it again the Temeraire really is ghostly, perhaps saying that all good things come to an end sometime. But I don't think Turner is necessarily saying that what is to follow will be worse. The flames from the chimney stack of the tug match the colours of the sunset and I don't find the tug as ugly as some of you do. Perhaps Turner is mourning the loss of the past but also looking to the future?


RolloTheRed Report 26 Feb 2013 12:50

Turner was well known for being accurate with his paintings, not creating a collage of bits and pieces to evoke a theme.

Look at the painting in hi res.

The ship can only have been towed west to east.
At that time the north shore of the Thames was marsh right up to the Isle of Dogs while the south shore was built on as per the painting. The smoke and the trim of the ships in the background also show the wind was blowing west to east.

It would be quite impossible to tow a hulk by steam tug with a following wind. The usual wind in the Thames is a westerly. The towage was difficult and expensive. The tugs would not have attempted the tow without a steady headwind from the west.

It is recorded that Turner ( as usual ) went to the Thames himself and made his own sketches from which he created the painting. Why would he go to all that trouble and then reverse the north and south shores of the Thames?

Has to be morning.


Sharron Report 26 Feb 2013 12:56

Do you think Turner knew all this?

Does anybody know who commisioned the picture?


SuffolkVera Report 26 Feb 2013 13:00

Everything you say Rollo makes logical sense but it still looks like a sunset to me. It makes more sense to tow the ship on the morning tide and what I think is the moon which could have been setting as the sun was rising. Yet it just doesn't have the feel of a sunrise to me.

Turner was known for accuracy but he was also famed for trying to convey a mood.


Sharron Report 26 Feb 2013 13:01

Have look at the National Gallery site.


SuffolkVera Report 26 Feb 2013 13:01

I have to disappear for a while now but I'll certainly look in later to see if there are any more interesting comments.