Sailors at a drunken orgy. Mezzotint by W. Ward, 1807, after J.C. Ibbetson, 1802.

  • Ibbetson, Julius, 1759-1817.
August 1807
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Sailors at a drunken orgy. Mezzotint by W. Ward, 1807, after J.C. Ibbetson, 1802. Wellcome Collection. Public Domain Mark. Source: Wellcome Collection.

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About this work


"A scene in an unspecified tavern at Portsmouth after one or more ships have been paid off. The painting may be a retrospective celebration of the Battle of the Glorious First of June 1794 since, although executed much later and after Ibbetson had moved to the north of England, it re-uses elements of a watercolour by him showing a similar scene and dated 3 July 1794. Although sailor's pay was low and often in arrears, prize money provided welcome bonuses after victorious actions, but it was rarely saved. The narrative indicates a group of three seamen in the foreground to the left of centre both pretending to fry their watches or play 'conkers' with them. This refers back to a celebrated incident in 1762 when, after capturing a Spanish galleon, seamen of the 'Active' and 'Favourite' were so loaded with prize money that they were recorded as frying watches, as shown. One of the women in the foreground wears a watch around her waist. Sailors, several with their arms around women, sit on low benches around a table to the right. This bears a china punch bowl and drinking mugs, with a sailor boy dancing on also dancing on it. To its left, a group are dancing to the music of the two fiddlers on the far left. Some of the dancers are in couples and others are groups of men carousing (including a sailor dancing with a Jewish pedlar, a class well-known as purveyors of frippery to seamen). In the foreground on the right a woman attends to a sailor lying on the ground. An empty bottle to the right indicates that he has had too much to drink, and the young woman is attempting to revive him."--online catalogue of the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, February 2009


[London] : James Linnell, August 1807.

Physical description

1 print : mezzotint, with watercolour ; sheet 46 x 60.3 cm


Sailors carousing ...


Wellcome Collection 673999i



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