In Pursuit of ‘Virginie’ – Behind the Painting
On the morning of the 20th April 1796, off the Lizard, a squadron of frigates under Sir Edward Pellew in the Indefatigable sighted a strange sail and the Indefatigable, Amazon and Concord set course W by S in chase. The spirited, two-hour action which took place 15 hours later was not particularly significant, as the odds were so heavily weighed against the enemy, but the chase was one of the most exciting in naval history.
The painting shows the situation at about 6.45 pm. The race has been on for 8½ hours and the excitement is mounting. Although there is not much swell yet, the wind is now Force 6 and Indefatigable, with every stitch set, is leaving her consorts astern. Making a good 12-knots, she is slowly gaining on the Frenchman. Seamen can be seen on deck and aloft tending and improvising her gear to keep all sails drawing full. Hammocks are being stowed in the netting and with a thought to old England and a bit of prize money, everything is ready for action!