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A ship is ready for launching, on the stocks just upstream from the main storehouse of the Royal Dockyard, Deptford. The third-rate 'Buckingham' was launched from Deptford in 1751, the year before this painting was made, and so it is generally accepted that she is the vessel shown. The flags that she is flying indicate that she is about to be launched: the Lord High Admiral's flag, the Royal Standard, the Union flag and jack and the red ensign. The beginnings of the framing of another ship can be seen on the building slip beyond. The composition of the painting is strong, demonstrating the position of the ship on the stocks, the River Thames to the left and the buildings of Deptford yard, including the Master Shipwright's house on the far left.
The scene is one of calm. A couple in the foreground to the left are being rowed to take a closer look at the 'Buckingham', an elegant group of visitors has been placed on the quay in the foreground, and the main movement in the painting is provided by some horses pulling a cart, visible on the quay to the left. It has been suggested that the stocky figure sketching the scene with his back to the viewer, on the corner of the river wall in the centre foreground, may be Cleveley himself. His main career was that of a shipwright in the Deptford yard, painting being his secondary occupation.
oil on canvas
H 81.3 x W 119.4 cm
National Maritime Museum (Greenwich Hospital Collection)