Simon and Clare Perrée bought the oil painting by Thomas Whitcombe – a view of a ship approaching St Helier harbour with Elizabeth Castle in the background – in 2007 and brought it to Jersey ‘where it belongs’, as Mr Perrée put it.
‘It’s been a joy to have it on display in our home for so many years but we felt the time was right to donate it to Jersey Heritage so that everyone can enjoy this special painting,’ he said.
Jersey Pier with a Distant View of Elizabeth Castle was painted in 1785 by an artist who enjoys a reputation as one of the leading British maritime painters of his age.
Works by Whitcombe hang in public collections throughout the country including those at the National Maritime Museum and the Tate Gallery. His work is also represented at the Yale Center for British Art in Connecticut.
Louise Downie, Jersey Heritage’s director of curation and experience, said that she wanted to express the organisation’s thanks for a donation which she described as ‘hugely generous’.
‘It is the only painting of an island scene by Whitcombe that we know of, so it is wonderful that it can go on display in Jersey where it has the most meaning and relevance,’ she said.
She explained that the painting captured a time in Jersey’s history when smuggling posed a problem for the authorities because Channel Island and French waters provided rich pickings for smugglers. To try to stop this illegal trade, the British Navy sent revenue cutters – small ships built for speed and armed with cannons. In the painting, a cutter has sails full of cannonball holes, suggesting it had recently seen action.
Whitcombe lived and worked as an artist in London and specialised in painting naval battles.
In 1785 Jersey was one of the frontiers in the many wars between Britain and France and, only four years earlier, a small French force invaded the Island to be defeated in the Battle of Jersey in the heart of St Helier.