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A Sixth-Rate on the Stocks
John Cleveley the elder

The exact location of the shipyard in this painting is unclear but it may be on the south bank of the Thames at Rotherhithe. The ship in the foreground ready for launching is a 24-gun sloop of war, much in use by the Navy for patrolling around coasts in peace and war, and there is another ship in dry-dock to the left under repair with only the lower masts standing.

In the foreground to the right some tree trunks are piled ready for use for shipbuilding and behind them two figures sit on ready-sawn planks. In the right forergound there is a small capstan-powered crane overhanging the edge of the wharf. The inclusion of many figures shows the artist has chosen to include a variety of social types and activities at the dockyard. Several workmen can be seen working on scaffolding under the ship, and there are a number of figures on its deck. A small figure to the far right, which may be a child, appears to be balancing precariously on the rail, one hand on the ensign staff while the other waves a hat. A man to the left holds out his hand in a gesture of warning.

Figures appear at all the upstairs windows of the building to the centre left, which may be the master shipwright's house. The sixth-rate is probably about to be launched and flies a Union Jack at the bow, a naval pendant on a temporary midships flagmast and a red ensign at the stern.

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