This dramatic late-19th-century oil on canvas by British artist, William Gibbons (1841-1886) depicts the Rothesay wrecked on the Great Mewstone, a rocky island near Plymouth in Devon. It was painted just three years after the incident occurred.
The story of the Rothesay is one of local legend and would’ve fascinated Gibbons who lived in Plymouth for most of his life. At 145 feet long, this 332-ton ship was a sight to behold when stranded on these notorious rocks. She was constructed in 1874 and wrecked in 1877 when travelling from Caen to Cardiff.
During the journey, force 11 winds forced her to head for the safety of Plymouth but on the way she struck the Great Mewstone. It was one of the most terrifying storms for decades. Upon striking the rocks, one of the crew was thrown overboard and, via some kind of miracle, survived. He then helped his crewmates escape the sinking wreck - no lives were lost.
Gibbons painted various shipwrecks throughout his career and was particularly bewitched by the turbulent waters off the South Devon coast.
Signed/dated in the lower left and held within a later scroll and foliate frame.
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Medium: Oil on canvas
Overall size: 46” x 27” / 118cm x 69cm
Year of creation: 1880
Condition: Artwork presents well. Frame with some light wear.
Artist’s auction highlight: £4,200 achieved for an oil painting in 2002.