Furniture Carved from the Timbers of “The Fighting Temeraire”

“The Fighting Temeraire” by JMW Turner is a symbolic painting depicting real life events.  The celebrated work marks the passing of an epoch – the transition of sail to steam – as the old man-of-war and veteran of Trafalgar is towed to the breakers yard in 1838.  But with all the pomp and ceremony surrounding the painting, it has gone almost unnoticed that parts of the warship can be seen today in the parish church of St Mary’s Rotherhithe.
The HMS Temeraire in Turner’s Painting
Turner’s painting (full title: The Fighting Temeraire tugged to her last Berth to be broken up) is as symbolic as it is true to life.  Not only does it convey “progress” in the transition of sail to steam and the scrapping of an old warrior, it also echoes the blandness that seems to accompany much modern design.  In a way the picture is ironic, in that the vessel being scrapped is not the scruffy little steamer in front, but the ethereal and celebrated ship behind.  The composition is also unusual, with the main subject positioned to the left of the picture.  The setting sun to the right, which occupies half the painting, further symbolises the end of an era.


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