DOMINIC SERRES, RA (1719-1793)
AN IMPORTANT GEORGE III OVERMANTEL MIRROR WITH NAVAL VIEWS, C. 1766
The rectangular top consisting of a thick wooden panel, centrally painted with a coastal landscape, flanked by octagonal-shaped ship scenes, above a three-paneled mirror, all framed by giltwood and composition molding with beaded edging, 32 1/4 x 66 1/2 inches.
The three, oil on panel paintings by Dominic Serres set within this overmantel mirror or "chimney piece", although undated, appear to be directly related to a pair of large oil on canvas works by Serres depicting a Royal Navy squadron entering and departing Plymouth, both signed and dated 1766 and now in the collections of the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich. All were likely commissioned by a senior naval officer to commemorate respective commands he held during the 7 Years' War, the two large paintings probably flanking the overmantel mirror or "chimney piece" in the drawing room of his country estate or city townhouse. Serres is known to have executed similar pieces, including two works exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1790 described as "a frieze for a chimney." This is the only known, surviving example of such a "frieze" or chimney piece by Serres. Dominic Serres was already the leading marine painter in Britain by the mid-1760s, his 'sea pieces' drawing heavily from the influence of the leading British landscape painters of the period. All three of these views, although small studies, demonstrate the artist's careful delineation of naval and land architecture and his masterful use of shadow and light to evoke drama and mood.
Note: Thanks to Alan Russett, author of the important biography and catalogue, Dominic Serres R.A. 1719-1793: War Artist ot the Navy (2001), who supports the relationship of this piece to the two 1766 Plymouth views in the NMM collections and also noted the similarity in execution of the storm view in this mirror to a 1781 Serres painting of the wreck of Hyde Parker's Phoenix off Cuba (at Long Melford Hall, NT), noting that the artist "did not often paint lurid storm scenes." Further thanks to Dr. Katy Barrett, Curator of Pre-1800 Paintings at the NMM, for her additional comments and insights.
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