Circa 1740 England
English School, Portrait of Admiral Edward Vernon (1684-1757)
Height 18 1/2 inches (46.99 cm)
Width 16 1/2 inches (41.91 cm
Depth 2 inches (5.08 cm)
English School, circa 1740
Admiral Edward Vernon (1684-1757)
Oil on canvas; held in period frame. Dimensions refer to size of frame.
This intriguing portrait is a version of that only known now through a mezzotint engraving. That credits an artist by the name of G. Hansson as the painter and depicts him almost identically to the portrait presented here. Vernon stands against a background of rock by a cannon holding a baton while a sea battle rages behind.
As a lieutenant Vernon had served in Sir Cloudisley Shovell’s flagship at the Battle of Malaga, 1704, and at the taking of Barcelona in the following year. In 1722 he was returned to Parliament where in the 1730s he was a powerful advocate for war with Spain. When the War of Jenkin’s Ear against the Spanish broke out in 1739, he undertook to capture their base at Porto Bello, Panama ‘with only six ships’. This he did in a famous landing against its Iron Castle since Spaniards had neglected preparations for its defence. A subsequent assault in Catagena, Columbia, failed through poor collaboration with the army contingent. Later he commanded the fleet in the North Sea during the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion. Shortly afterwards he quarrelled with the Admiralty over some pamphlets of which he was the alleged author and his name was struck off the flag officers’ list. Vernon is however best remembered because in 1740 he ordered his men’s rum ration to be served diluted with water, for health reasons. This ‘grog’ – Vernon’s nickname- rapidly became the standard way of serving the naval rum ration until it was abolished in 1970.