La Junon frégate du Roy avec ses matures et ses cordages

18th century


Gouache on paper HONIG



Measurements (with frame) :

Height: 18,8 in.

Width: 24,6 in.


Measurements (without frame) :

Height: 14 in.

Width: 19,6 in.




This gouache depicting The Junon vaissel with ropes and matures is the result of a double influence, both artistic and scientific.

In a context where England dominated the oceans, Louis XV, with the help of his secretary of the Navy, the Count de Maurepas (1723-1749), has a strong will to advance its fleet until then neglected since the death of Louis XIV.

Gradually the French fleet is technically improved through a new approach of the construction of ships. Indeed, the approach initiated by the Count de Maurepas is to study and to enhance the construction of new vessels not only in empirical way but also in a scientific manner. To this end, the School of Paris was founded in 1741 and provides a solid education to future builders using both mathematical and graphical expression.

This gives rise to new types of vessels such as The Junon we present here. Launched in 1747, it has forty-four guns and is marked by a prominent front and a thin rear. This is an early attempt to build an intermediate ship between a line vessel of the time and a frigate, lighter and faster ship. This Junon, took part in many naval battles includong the campaign of Tripoli in 1752 or the Minorca expedition in 1756. Severely damaged during a final battle in Menorca, it was condemned and sold on site at Port Mahon in 1757.


Throughout the eighteenth century, the sea passionates princes, scholars and enthusiasts allowing marine painting to grow and succeed in becoming a pictorial genre in itself and accepted at the Salon. Several dynasties painters illustrate in marine painting as Roux in Marseilles, Ozanne in Brest, Van Blarenberghe in Lille or Vernet in Avignon.


Our gouache representing The Junon, as the work of Joseph Vernet (1714-1789) on the views of the ports of France, is the testimony of the royal will to assert maritime power of France.
Moreover, the following instructions will be given to Vernet: "Your paintings should serve two merits, that of picturesque beauty and that of resemblance". This phrase found in the register of letters and submissions to the King, dated September 27, 1753, sets the tone for artists who apply the respect for reality in their works.

The Junon we present here illustrates the dual context of which it is derived, by enrolling in both the artistic context of taste for navigation at the time and in a quality of representation with scientific precision, desired by the royal power.

The representation of this Junon is a remarkable source on the history of navigation techniques that enrich our knowledge of naval building at the time of Louis XV.