CLEVELEY, John the Elder
(b. ca. 1712, Southwark, d. 1777, Southwark)

Deptford Shipyard, London

Oil on canvas, 128 x 154 cm
Private collection

This signed and dated painting is one of at least six variant versions by Cleveley celebrating the launching of Royal Naval vessels at Deptford Dockyard, on the Thames, in the 1750s. British naval prowess was rising at this period and such events were invariably great public occasions. The King's Yard at Deptford – the second oldest after Portsmouth – had been founded by Henry VIII in 1513. Deptford Dockyard became a major centre of naval construction and maintenance thereafter, and centre of a sizable town based on related activities. In 1698 Tsar Peter the Great of Russia spent three months there studying shipbuilding during his 'Great Embassy' to western Europe. From the 1660s Deptford was also particularly associated with building and maintenance of royal yachts.