A Frigate with a View of the Needles

Artist or maker:
Serres, Dominic (b.1722, d.1793)
Place of production:
London, England, United Kingdom
oil on canvas
Type of object:
Accession number:


The drama of steering the ships past the formidable rocks off the Isle of Wight was a popular subject for Dominic Serres. A composition perhaps based on this painting appears as an engraving in a book written with his son. The book the 'Liber Nauticus, and Instructor in the Art of Marine Drawing' (1805-6) was designed to help others depict naval scenes.

An engraving in the Serres's book, entitled 'Three representations of frigates going through the Needles, at the Isle of White, in a breeze' (Plate XXV) is very similar to this painting. In the Waddesdon picture however, the three ships are a merchant brig, a frigate and a cutter. The high wind and choppy seas adds to the drama of the scene. This painting may have provided a basis for the engraving. It was however a favourite subject of Serres. He exhibited a painting with this title in 1769 at the Society of Artists. Serres made many similar paintings of English vessels against familiar landmarks of the British coast.

Dominic Serres was born in France and seems to have come to England as a prisoner of war in the 1750s, having run away to sea where he served on a Spanish ship. After his release he worked as a house painter before moving to London around 1758 where he specialised in marine painting. He gained recognition for his depictions of the Seven Years War. He was one of the founding members of the Royal Academy in 1768 and was appointed Marine Painter to George III in 1780. His son, John Thomas Serres, was also a successful marine painter.

This is one of three marine paintings in the East Entrance Lobby that were purchased by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild for display on his yacht 'Rona'. He bought it with the title 'Poole Bay'.

Phillippa Plock, 2011

Physical description

Dimensions (mm):
413 x 571
400 x 500 - sight
Signature & date:
signed and dated, lower left: D. SERRES, 1776
C. Herbert July 5 lot 21
on verso

chalk on paper covering

No. 7
in pencil on paper covering


Owned by C Herbert (active 19th Century); acquired by Thomas Agnew & Sons Ltd before June 1896; bought from Agnew's by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild (b.1839, d.1898) 2 June 1896 for £22, stock no. 7641, for his yacht 'Rona' with the title 'Poole Bay'; inherited by his sister Alice de Rothschild (b.1847, d.1922); inherited by her great-nephew James de Rothschild (b.1878, d.1957); bequeathed to Waddesdon The Rothschild Collection (The National Trust) in 1957.
Waddesdon (National Trust)
Bequest of James de Rothschild, 1957



Ellis Waterhouse, Anthony Blunt; Paintings: The James A. de Rothschild Collection at Waddesdon Manor; Fribourg; Office du Livre, The National Trust; 1967; pp. 110-111, cat. no. 44, ill.
Alan Russett; Dominic Serres R.A. 1719 - 1793 War Artist to the Navy; Woodbridge; Antique Collectors Club; 2001; pp. 105-106

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