Due to ill health over the past two years, there has been a delay in publishing the newly researched and revealing material relating to this ship. The following is an introduction to the information that the artist will be making available later on this website.


Surely one of the most important parts of the painting, 'The Defining Moment' is Robin Brooks' depiction of the magnificent 80 gun French flagship Bucentaure. She is a ship so central to the action and yet so mysterious, because of our lack of knowledge on her. A close examination of the many books and paintings of Trafalgar shows that artists and historians alike have struggled to find details of this remarkable ship of the line. Indeed, there is only one painting of the Bucentaure that could be said to have been painted from life and thus offer any truly accurate detail at all. This painting, of unknown authorship, did rest in the Musee de la Marine in Paris. (Now lost and only available as a photograph).

Painting of the Bucentaure
La Bucentaure, Anon courtesy of the Musée national de la Marine Paris.

Originally, used in Venice, the name 'Bucentaure' was given to a succession of Venetian state barges, constructed to perform the yearly Marriage of the Sea ceremony, in which Venice was symbolically wed to the Adriatic on Ascension Day. These barges were ornate vessels and the last 'Bucentaure', built in 1728, was some 44 metres in length with 42 oars, manned by 168 men. Pictures by Canaletto and Francesco Guardi show a baroque, almost totally gold vessel against the Venetian backdrop; a lavish symbol of Venetian power. The name itself however, finds its origins in Greece and means Great Centaur. In Greek mythology, the centaur, or half man, half horse, lived in the mountains of Thessaly in northern Greece. It is possible that the Great Centaur may elude to Chiron, first and greatest of centaurs and tutor to many heroes, including Jason and Achilles.

In 1797, Napoleon seized the Republic of Venice and with it, the Bucentaure. With a very humiliating and symbolic gesture to the Venetian people, he ordered the barge to be stripped to the hull of all its decoration and the gold melted down. Four years later, in what can scarcely be called a coincidence, the magnificent 80 gun French flagship, Bucentaure was launched at Toulon in 1802.

Author : Ben Liebert

No original plans of the ship exist. Robin Brooks' painstaking research over a five year period was able to recreate the standing and running rigging, the outward appearance of the hull, figurehead and stern decorations and most of the deck fittings and furniture. This piece of research is unique and it is hoped to present all the amassed material in a series of detailed line drawings, giving the historical background, decorative work, colour scheme, ship's boats, armament, masts and spars, tops, trestletrees etc. This ambitious project is a work in progress.

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