Action of 6 October 1779
Beautiful engraving after an oil painting by Robert Dodd, the view illustrates the action between the French 40-gun Surveillante and the British 32-gun HMS Quebec off Ushant on 6th October 1779.
During this engagement, Quebec caught fire and exploded, killing many on board, including Captain George Farmer, to whose memory this engraving is dedicated.
As noted on the website of the Royal Collection Trust:
The Quebec is shown in starboard broadside view, completely dis-masted and on fire, but with the ensign still flying from her stern. Flames and ash leap from the hull. Black smoke billows across the sky. Spars, sails and sailors bob in the rolling sea and, in the right foreground, a small, overloaded cutter attempts to pull men from the sea. The French protagonist, La Surveillante, is shown in port stern quarter view on the left of the picture. Her French flag remains at her stern, but she too has lost all her masts. Various other sailing vessels are depicted in the distance.
Britain was not able to effect a close blockade of French and Spanish ports during the American Revolution as it would attempt in later wars. Instead, it used a screen of frigates to attempt to monitor and interdict shipping coming out of France and Spain. Despite the fact that the engagement was a loss for the British it was covered in much popular imagery at the time and became a storied naval engagement.