Richard Brydges BEECHEY

Wreck of HMS Orpheus on Manukau Bar, New Zealand, Feb'y 1863 1868

Oil on canvas

972 x 1101 mm

Signed and dated

Edmiston Trust Collection, New Zealand Maritime Museum.

HMS ORPHEUS was bringing naval stores across from Sydney. Sea conditions were favourable for a safe crossing of the bar when the Captain entered the wrong channel. The ship stuck fast on a sandbar and breaking waves destroyed her. Of the 259 naval officers and men aboard, 189 died, including the captain.

On 14 April 1863 the wreck and its inquiry made The Illustrated London News, Supplement, the forthcoming inquiry into the causes of the loss of the Orpheus will be looked for with great interest, and it is hoped that the causes of this sad disaster will receive a searching and impartial investigation.

The disaster still ranks today as the worst New Zealand maritime disaster with the greatest loss of life

Beechey painted the scene in England seven months after the wreck occurred.

For further information:

Richard Brydges BEECHEY 1808-1895

An Anglo-Irish marine painter and the son of British painter, Sir William Beechey (1753-1839). At fourteen years of age he joined the Royal Navy, and in time rose to the rank of admiral. After his retirement from the Navy he devoted himself to painting, often exhibiting at the Royal Academy in London.

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