Fleet gathering and Royal Standard in the Solent, 1896
Charles Dixon RI (1872-1934). Watercolour heightened with white; signed and dated (lower left) 1896.
9 x 4 1/2 inches (22.8 x 11.43 cms) approx
This original has been sold and is no longer available.
A charming little watercolour with all Dixon's trademark features: a light touch overall with foreground detail precise and finely executed and some bodycolour; and the background left more to the imagination though there are some tempting looking men-of- war on the horizon! There is a delightful sketchy feel to this painting which is nevertheless signed and dated, a statement by Dixon of a job finished it would seem.
This is undoubtedly the Solent (that narrow stretch of water between the UK mainland and the Isle of Wight) and in the background to the left appears to be the coastline around Stokes Bay which lies just to the west along the coast from Portsmouth Naval Base: the warships riding at anchor are lying at Spithead, for centuries an assembly area for warships of the Royal Navy. The naval steam pinnace in the foreground is wearing what at first appears to be a Royal Standard - and that's in keeping with the fact that Osborne House, Queen Victoria's residence in the Isle of Wight, lies just east of Cowes: the pinnace's course is compatible with a Royal voyage from Portsmouth to Osborne. But what doesn't quite work is the Standard itself.
Its the wrong way round! All Standards worn by members of the Royal Family, major or less major members, then, as now, have the cantons in the hoist coloured with a red field (upper) and a blue field (lower); the emblems are superimposed onto these coloured fields. Here Dixon shows us with the colours between hoist and fly transposed: I have trawled the books and examined the records but can find no such Standard in any European - or indeed worldwide - Royal or Imperial House at this time. Whilst the scene is undoubtedly showing a member of the Royal family underway, it is unlikely to be the ageing Queen Victoria who would not be allowed to travel in a mere Royal pinnace, one of the larger Royal Yachts being more suitable. This is therefore perhaps more likely to be the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) on his way to Osborne or perhaps the Royal Yacht Squadron in Cowes to sail his beloved BRITANNIA. Has Dixon simply painted this Standard the wrong way round?!