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An interpretation of Admiral Duncan receiving the surrender of the Dutch Admiral de Winter, following the Battle of Camperdown, painted 30 years after the event. Admiral Duncan countered the threat of French invasion when he defeated the Dutch fleet at Camperdown in 1797. His victory was regarded as one of the most important naval actions of its time. He was commander of the North Sea fleet blockading Holland when the Dutch fleet, commanded by Admiral de Winter, appeared. A hard-fought action ensued with many casualties. Duncan's own ship, the 'Venerable', 74 guns, took many hits. When Duncan's flag was shot from the main topmast, he retrieved it himself and, in a famous incident, seaman Jack Crawford of Sunderland climbed up to reattach it to the shattered masthead. With de Winter's surrender, Duncan was able to claim 11 ships as prizes from an enemy fleet of 18.
The group watching the surrender includes a sailor, drummer and a boy seaman with his back to the viewer. To their left, behind Duncan is a boy in a Tam o' Shanter, presumably his servant. One Dutch ship, the 'Hercules', 64 guns, is shown on fire in the background. Figures are positioned in highly stylized attitudes, and those encircling the main action in the foreground resemble a frieze: limbs, backs and elbows form a rhythmic counterpoint to the static main action.
Admiral Duncan Receiving the Sword of the Dutch Admiral de Winter at the Battle of Camperdown, 11 October 1797
oil on canvas
H 205.5 x W 272 cm
National Maritime Museum (Greenwich Hospital Collection)