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MEYNELL, Francis, RN, Lieutenant (1821-1870)
Calcutta from Garden Reach. HMS Calliope Saluting. [Original Watercolour].
1841. Watercolour on paper, ca. 31x54 cm (12 x 21 ¼ in). Signed in ink "G. Meynell" in the left lower corner. Captioned and dated in pencil on verso by the artist. Recently mounted and matted. A very good watercolour. The watercolour shows the moment of the British warship HMS Calliope going through the Garden Reach - the entrance to the port of Kolkata on the Hooghly River. "The port of Kolkata is the oldest operational port in India, having originally been constructed by the British East India Company, and it was the premier port in British India in the 19th century" (Wikipedia). The port's buildings and a grand residence on the bank to the left, as well as a boat carrying two Europeans being rowed by Indians, are shown in the watercolour. The time of the event shown by the artist is known to be August-September 1841 when HMS Calliope arrived to Kolkata from Canton with $6 million of ransom money taken during the marine operations of the First Opium War (1839-1842). HMS Calliope (28 guns, built in 1837) participated in the blockade of the mouth of the Pearl River and operations at Canton in 1841. Circa Aug 1841 it departed for Calcutta with the bulk of the Canton ransom money (See: Clowes, W.L. The Royal Navy: A History from the Earliest Times to the Present. In 7 vols. Vol. 6. London, 1901. P. 294). The artist, Francis Meynell, was a midshipman on Calliope (See: Allen, J. The New Navy List and General Record of the Service of Officers of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines. London, 1853. P. 146). "Meynell entered the navy as midshipman during the campaign in China, on board the Calliope. He was mentioned for the assistance rendered at the capture on 13 March 1841 of the last fort protecting the approaches of the city of Canton" (National Maritime Museum (Greenwich) on-line). [Later he served as] mate in the Penelope during anti-slavery operations off the west coast of Africa, [and was promoted Lieutenant in 1846]. During the Crimean War 1853-55 he served on HMS Royal George. His illustrated journal mostly dedicated to the Baltic campaign of the Crimean War (1853-55) is now in the collection of the National Maritime Museum (Greenwich).