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Auction Name: 2021 May 25 Automobilia, Transport History and Mechanical Models Special Online Auction
Lot Number: 21110
Shortcut to Lot: HA.com/15160-21110
A Carved Bone Napoleonic Prisoner-of-War Ship HMS Alexander Model
, circa 1795-1815
29 x 23-1/2 x 10-1/2 inches (73.7 x 59.7 x 26.7 cm)Property from the Estate of Kenneth Alan Hill, Sr., Fort Worth, Texas
PROVENANCE:Corporate Collection of UBS Bank
, Vallejo Gallery, Newport Beach, CaliforniaNote: Due to the Customs restrictions relating to some species of bone, international bidders may not have the lot shipped to them.
The model of the HMS Alexander
of the British Navy, is a highly detailed and fine example of the artistic craftsmanship of the prisoners, mostly French but some Dutch and British, held during the Napoleonic Wars (1795-1815). This model is of carved bone and an excellent large example.
Her notable features include her well-carved stern and quarter galleries, unique crossed lines on the gunnel, carved ropework detail on the sides, on deck features like the bell tower, capstan and many belaying pins set with carved posts. Even the launches have carved interiors and details. Genuine period Prisoner-of-War bone models are rare, their historical importance and aesthetic appeal making them desirable. The model is positioned on a galleried carved bone base inlaid with compass and rising-and-setting sun designs.
The ship is named for Alexander the Great. By the end of the late 18th century, when this ship was built, Europe's Greek revival period was in full swing. It was common for ships to be named for such legendary heroes whose brave deeds and adventures might inspire the ship's crew to their own acts of bravery. Given that the ship was held by both the British and French and her participation in the Battle of the Nile, it is possible that this model was made by French prisoners who had been sailors aboard her or aboard ships that fought against her.
The Ship HMS Alexander
was a 74-gun third-rate of the Royal Navy. Launched in 1778, she went on to have an active career for both the French and British navies in the French Revolutionary Wars. In 1794 the ship was escorting a convoy to Spain alongside HMS Canada
when they were set upon by eight French Naval ships. After intense fighting the Alexander
was damaged by several close broadside attacks and was forced to surrender. HMS Canada
escaped with the Alexander
's Master, Rear-Admiral Richard Rodney Bligh, who was later acquitted of any blame for her capture. Bligh bears no relation to the notorious Captain William Bligh of Mutiny on the Bounty
The French took her to Brest for repairs and rechristened her with the French version of the same name, Alexandre
. She served with the French navy until June of 1795 when she set upon by the British Channel Fleet under Lord Bridgeport off the Island of Belle Île, Brittany. The British chased the French ships including Alexandre
and brought them to action in the Battle of Groix. During the battle the British recaptured the Alexandre
and she was towed back to Plymouth.
In May of 1798, the restored HMS Alexander
was sent into the Mediterranean with several other ships under Admiral Lord Nelson. The fleet encountered heavy winds and weather and Alexander
was forced to withdraw to Sardinia towing another ship to safety. Later in the same year the Alexander
would again come under the command of Lord Nelson when she took part in the Battle of the Nile, under the direct command of Captain Alexander Ball, first serving as a scout ship alongside the HMS Swiftsure
and later as a direct combatant. The Alexander
was the second ship to fire upon the French fleet, engaging the French flagship, L'Orient
. The Alexander
sank three French ships before she had to withdraw due to a small fire on board. The three day battle would be hailed as one of the greatest British naval victories, turning the tide of the war and establishing British naval dominance in the region. Though each side started the battle with 13 ships the entire French fleet was lost or captured versus while only a few British ships were only damaged, none lost.
In original condition with scratches and rubbing to edges of the base indicative of age and use.
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