The Start Point, North East by North (one of five drawings on one mount)

The Start Point, North East by North (one of five drawings on one mount)

undated
John Thomas Serres
Watercolor, graphite and pen and brown ink on medium, slighlty textured, cream wove paper
Sheet: 3 1/8 × 10 1/4 inches (7.9 × 26 cm) Image: 2 × 9 1/4 inches (5.1 × 23.5 cm)
In 1799, John Thomas Serres was commissioned by the Admiralty “to go out in one of the ships from Plymouth for the purpose of taking views of Brest and the environs and to continue at sea.” Brest, the main base for the French fleet at the entrance to the Channel, was a focus of British strategic efforts to hinder the French navy during the Revolutionary War, and yet very little intelligence on the region was available to the Admiralty Coastal profiles were part of officer training at the Naval Academy in Portsmouth and were mentioned in instructions issued by the Admiralty to those sailing on enemy coasts: “where there shall be Artists on board sufficiently qualified, you are to add Drafts or Plans.” They were based on careful measurements, with vertical scale and landmarks exaggerated to increase visibility and allow for more detail.
 
This is one of a series of profiles of landmarks on the south coast of England, which appear to have served as the basis for those published in The Little Sea Torch, a translation of an earlier work, Le petit flambeau de la mer (1684), by Le Sieur Raulin Bougard. The Little Sea Torch is illustrated with twenty plates of coastal profiles and twelve plates of charts, engraved by J. Stadler mainly after Serres’s drawings. Serres’s work for the Admiralty was incorporated into Hydrographic Office charts, some of which were not superseded until the late nineteenth century. 
B1975.4.1589
Inscribed in pen and brown ink, lower left: "The Start Point N.Eby N."Inscribed in graphite, lower right: "Plate 1\1\"
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection