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ROBERT SALMON

THE BRITISH FLEET FORMING A LINE OFF ALGIERS, 1829

About the Artwork

English-born Robert Salmon arrived in Boston in August 1828. Soon thereafter, he began to work on a series of three large-scale paintings depicting events centered around the naval bombardment of Algiers in 1816. In addition to the MFA’s work, he executed a view of the city and a night battle scene (New Britain Museum of American Art, Connecticut, and location unknown, respectively). According to the numbered inventory of paintings the artist kept, The British Fleet Forming a Line off Algiers was 630, the first entry for 1829, and (in his spelling), “The second sean for sellf, begun the first Janewary, finished the 30. Vew of the British fleet forming the line in the vicinity of Algears.”[1]Salmon chose his subject with care, selecting a theme that likely had resonance for his American audience, since the United States had been involved in war against the North African Barbary States for their piracy and enslavement of Christians as early as 1801. A series of naval actions followed, but were interrupted by the War of 1812. Naval hero Stephen Decatur brought Tunis, Tripoli, and Algiers to treaty terms in 1815, establishing a temporary peace. New trouble broke out with the dey of Algiers in 1815, and the British (with the Dutch) intervened in 1816 after violent actions were committed against English citizens.

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