A new painting of the Mary Rose reveals fresh clues to the mystery of the Tudor warship’s demise. The work, by celebrated maritime artist Geoff Hunt, is the most accurate depiction of the flower of Henry VIII’s fleet to date, incorporating new findings on her size, shape and sailing characteristics.
The painting draws on a detailed study of the ‘stem’ (front timber) of the Tudor warship, recovered from the seabed in 2005, to understand the proportions of the bow and, for the first time, also shows a second fighting castle deck in her stern. Evidence of the higher stern castle was gleaned from a 1545 letter written by the King’s shipwright. The letter revealed the existence of a second castle deck, while explaining to Henry VIII why placing yet more guns alongside the foremast, as the King desired, would “be a great weakening to the same part of the ship”. This evidence of the increased height of the rear of the Mary Rose has further fuelled speculation that it was the ship’s ‘top-heaviness’ that led to her heeling over and sinking off Portsmouth in 1545.
Geoff Hunt’s research to perfect the oil painting, commissioned by the Mary Rose Trust, the charity preserving the flagship of Henry VIII’s fleet, involved painstaking examination of the ship’s timbers at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard and lengthy discussions with a wide variety of Mary Rose experts. Geoff Hunt said, “The research entailed 113 hours of work before I even lifted a brush. Part of the challenge was in pulling together knowledge from a variety of Mary Rose specialists to piece together the most complete picture possible of Henry VIII’s flagship.”
Rear Admiral John Lippiett, Chief Executive of the Mary Rose Trust, added, “Thanks to Geoff’s beautiful and detailed work we can, for the first time, see the Mary Rose as Henry VIII would have viewed her on the fateful day that she went to the bottom of the Solent, for reasons that we still do not fully understand.
“Was it the case that an already top heavy Mary Rose was overloaded with guns, crew, ammunition and provisions? Was her structure compromised just months before she sailed into her final battle? We may never know for sure. But what is certain is that in the 500th anniversary year of Henry’s accession to the throne, and of his commissioning of the Mary Rose, Geoff Hunt’s superb new painting is a fitting salute to this magnificent Tudor warship.”
The Mary Rose Trust is releasing limited edition prints of the new painting – 250 on canvas and 750 on high quality etching paper – signed and numbered by the artist. For more information please visit www.artmarine.co.uk. The painting itself is currently on display at the ‘Hidden Treasures of the Mary Rose’ exhibition at the Whitgift School, Croydon, running until 1 September.
People are urged to view the Mary Rose, which was raised from the mud of the Solent in front of a worldwide television audience of 60 million in 1982, before she once again disappears from public view in the autumn, to allow building work on an ambitious new £35 million purpose-built museum. When the new museum opens in 2012, the remains of the ship will at last be reunited with the amazing artefacts recovered from her, as the final stage in the conservation of the ship’s timbers commences.
To find out more please visit www.maryrose.org.