La Guadeloupe

French Sailor's Valentine


Drawn in pen, ink and watercolour and erroneously entitled La Goideloupe, this fascinating piece shows a French infantryman (or voltigeur) with his ship La Gaudeloupe at sea in the background. It is indistinctly inscribed in ink ‘Voltigeur de la Guadeloupe’.

Built in 1763, HMS Guadeloupe was a Royal Navy frigate that served during the American War of Independence. It was scuttled in the York River, Virginia on 10 October 1781 to prevent her being taken by the French. But she was later raised and repaired by the French Navy and re-christened La Guadeloupe. She continued in the French service until 1786.

The ship’s history places the watercolour within the narrow time-frame 1782-1786. The fold lines suggest it was sent ‘home’ by the officer to his family as a souvenir or to his sweetheart as a Valentine.

The watercolour is fragile but is secure within a period reeded frame. The paper has a partial watermark with the initial H.R. but no date. The paper has browned and there is some loss and damage mostly along the old fold lines. It has probably also faded but it’s a remarkably rare and evocative survivor nonetheless.

Item Ref. 6687

Size: framed, 170 x 203mm (6¾ x 8")