'Watt' by William Jackson (active about 1770-1803)

painting of a 3 mast sailing ship at sea, with front, side and back views

The ship rigged 'Watt' is shown in three positions off an unidentified coast in this fine portrait. In the centre the vessel is shown centrally in port profile with a stern view in the left middle distance and a starboard quarter view to the right. The main view shows her making progress through the water with all sails set, except the headsails and mizzen course and the main sail is clewed up. She displays a fine classical warrior as her figurehead and painted and decorated galleries. Her crew are shown on deck undertaking a variety of duties and the master can be seen in front of the mizzen issuing orders through a speaking trumpet. She flies a long pennant from the main mast and the post-1801 red ensign at her stern in all three views.

'Watt' was built by Edward Grayson of Liverpool in 1797 for the local merchant firm of Watt and Walker. She was equipped with 22 guns and was built for the Jamaica trade, where Richard Watt also had an estate. She was sold to two Liverpool merchants, Morrall and Boland, in association with members of the Scott shipbuilding family of Greenock in 1809. She continued in the West Indies trade, principally carrying sugar, until 1812.

The painting has been attributed on stylistic grounds to William Jackson, particularly because of the distinctive treatment of the sails. It is one of the finest canvases so far known by his hand and is also a late work, completed in the last two years of his life.

  • Oil on canvas, 91cm x 117cm