An important 18th century plan depicting a frigate in the Dieppe docks by Napoleon's Chief Engineer Monsieur Lapeyre
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An original and extremely fine and important 1794 plan by one of Napoleon's Chief Engineers, Monsieur Lapeyre, of the docks at Dieppe with a French frigate in dry dock. The writing to the top indicates this width across the dock. The ship displays the French naval ensign only flown 1790-1794 and was the Naval ensign during the French revolution. The ensign is a white flag with a bordered first version of the French tricolore on the top-left honour quadrant. Atop the flag is a red sailor’s cap, the type worn by 18th century French sailors on warships.
As one of Napoleon's chief engineers, Monsieur Lapeyre was an important figure in the maritime world, designing and planning ports and defences. When at the start of the 19th century, Napoleon was reviewing military defences at a variety of ports, he entrusted them to Lapeyre as one of his chief engineers at the Maritime Department. Lapeyre produced a series of seven watercolour drawings presenting a miltray project at the port of Etretat. The plan he produced was intricate and detailed but that particular example never came to fruition, however much of his other work did.
It is not surprising that the plan shows a French frigate. French frigates were among the best ships, fine lines and noted for their seaworthiness.
Dieppe had a reputation for building small, fast ships and during the Napoleonic period was known for its privateers. Records show two frigates of the Romaine class were built in Dieppe in 1794, The Revanche, begun in March 1794 and launched in August 1795 and the Incorruptible, begunb in March 1794 and launched in May 1795.
Incorruptible was a 40-gun Romaine Class frigate.On 15 July 1796, under captain Bescond, she fought against the 56-gun HMS Glatton. In 1800, she was involved in thebattle of Dunkirk.
In January 1805, she was sent to observe British movements off Toulon along with Hortense. On 4 February, they attacked a convoy, destroying 7 ships. Three days later, they encountered the convoy escorted by the 20-gun sloop HMS Arrown and the 8-gun bomb vessel HMS Acheron the frigates destroyed two Royal Navy vessels, and captured and burnt Duchess of Rutland and two other merchant vessels of the convoy.
On 2 August 1806 Revanche, capitaine de frégate Lambert, and Sirenecapitaine de frégate Le Duc, captured the Greenland whalers Holderness , Swan, and Blenheim. The French burnt their captures.
On 12 March 1811, Revanche and Pregel captured the British sloop HMS Challenger.
A number of Lapeyre's similar works remain in French archives, with one example having passed through Christie's saleroom in the past.
The plan remains in very good condition with bright vibrant colours. There are fold marks where the plan has been stored away.