Edward Duncan after W. J. Huggins
H. M. Armed Cutter the Active
30 x 24 inches
A large-scale, hand coloured aquatint engraved by Duncan after Huggins, published in London in 1830.
There are two Duncans at play in this fascinating and historic print so we need to establish that the engraver is the esteemed maritime artist, Edward Duncan, not to be confused with the behemoth of the British Navy, the Right Honourable Lord, Viscount Duncan to whom the plate is dedicated. The scene is set in the choppy waters of Yarmouth Roads, a strategic stretch of sea off the Norfolk coast. The Active, under the command of J. Hamilton, is firing a warning signal to the British fleet under the command of Viscount Duncan, to alert them to the whereabouts of the Dutch fleet. The ensuing Battle of Camperdown (1797) would be one of the most significant sea battles of the French Revolutionary Wars ending in a resounding victory for the British against the Dutch. The print thereby celebrates Active's small but pivotal part in securing this victory and is posthumously dedicated to the man of the moment, Admiral Duncan. From a marine engineering point of view, it is fascinating to see the evolution of the traditional battleship, heavily timbered and somewhat cumbersome, into something altogether smaller, faster and more streamlined. The design of the Active heralds the emergence of the racing yachts that would come to dominate the English waters by the middle of the century.