Monamy 1. 37 x 53. Plymouth City Art Gallery. Currently being cleaned.
Below is a sketch by the Younger van de Velde, 1699; reproduced in Robinson, van de Velde Drawings, Vol II, 1974, p.287. Van de Velde’s sketch is described by Michael Robinson on p.122 as “The Eddystone lighthouse drawn probably immediately after its completion. [It] … was begun in 1696. The light was exhibited for the first time on 14 November 1698.”
In her authoritative study of Winstanley’s life and work, Alison Barnes writes that “In the summer of 1699, Mr Winstanley strengthened, raised and enlarged his lighthouse.” She has pointed out that this drawing must have been made during the summer, when work was in progress, since it appears to show some but not all of the features of the final structure. The central door and the flag belong to the final stages, but the drawing does not include the gallery to the right, clearly delineated on engravings of the strengthened building of 1699-1703, or the mottoes. The over-elaborate wrought ironwork crowning the first construction has been replaced with ironwork more closely matching the engraved print of the final lighthouse. Essentially, therefore, van de Velde’s sketch is of the second construction, considerably taller and more robust than the first.
It is very obvious that although Monamy intended to commemorate the pioneering achievement of the first, original structure, he has followed the composition of the van de Velde sketch, and added the bright red colouring of the ensign, with its attendant keeper, for visual effect. The sky and the cloud formations are based on first-hand observation, as Janet Tamblin has remarked, but it is exceedingly unlikely that Monamy ever saw either of the Winstanley structures before they vanished.
Monamy’s exploitation of the van de Velde composition, in his three known lighthouse paintings, will be discussed on other pages. Meanwhile, his second depiction of Winstanley’s first lighthouse is examined here.
© Charles Harrison Wallace 2004