Vice Admiral Sir George Anson's Victory off Cape Finisterre

Vice Admiral Sir George Anson's Victory off Cape Finisterre

1749
Samuel Scott
Oil on canvas
40 x 71 inches (101.6 x 180.3 cm)
During the War of the Austrian Succession (1740–48), a Pan-European conflict that pitted Britain and Austria against France, Prussia, and Spain, British naval forces were tasked with blocking communication between France and its colonies in North America. On May 3, 1747, a fleet under Admiral George Anson set upon a convoy of merchant ships under escort by French naval vessels off Cape Finisterre (northwest Spain) and captured six men-of-war and four merchant ships.
 
While its detailed rendition of the ships is persuasive of the accuracy of the depiction, Samuel Scott presents a composite view of events that enable the recounting of a narrative of chase, attack, and surrender. The British ship in the center of the composition is Anson’s flagship, the Prince George, identifiable by the blue ensign of Vice Admiral of the Blue flying at its fore-topmast. At 2 pm on the day of the battle, the Prince George signaled the fleet to “chace to the S.W.” by flying the red, white, and blue flag visible below the blue ensign. The red signal flag at the mainmast head communicated the order, given at 3 pm, to attack without regard for the line of battle. The Prince George itself joined the action only just in time to receive the surrender of the Invincible, seen to the right of Prince George with its mainmast shattered and falling, its crew in disarray; the rest of the French ships surrendered between 6 and 7 pm. 
B1981.25.559
Signed and dated, lower left: "S. Scott 1749"
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection