Early 18th-Century French Ships

Rafael Monleón1886

Naval Museum

Naval Museum
Madrid, Spain

The work shows several French ships from the early 18th century, among which an 84-cannon vessel stands out. French ships were robust and increasingly large, continuing to use traditional wide and heavy shapes while incorporating the technological advances of the day. A wider beam and reduced draft gave better stability and speed and an advantage for the artillery as the low battery was away from the waterline.

The painting is part of a series of 92 works titled "Graphic History of Naval Construction" created by the pilot, researcher, painter, and Naval Museum restorer Rafael Monleón Torres (1843–1900) during the final 2 decades of the 19th century.

The drawings have a similar formal structure: in the center is a watercolor about 32 x 48 centimeters in size on top of a larger piece of white laid paper with an 8-centimeter border on each side. In this border, Monleón drew different pen studies of the boats featured in the main scene with accompanying explanatory text.

As a whole, the series represents a detailed study of the development of naval architecture from ancient forms of navigation to the most modern turn-of-the-century ships. Monleón also produced a handwritten dictionary, "Artistic Aspects of Naval Constructions," which is now held at the Naval Museum.


  • Title: Early 18th-Century French Ships
  • Creator: Rafael Monleón y Torres
  • Date Created: 1886
  • Location Created: Madrid, Spain
  • Type: Watercolor
  • Original Source: Museo Naval, Madrid.
  • Rights: Museo Naval, Madrid-All rights reserved
  • Medium: Watercolor
  • Width: 62,2cm
  • Height: 49,2cm

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