It was dated with the magical year of 1805.
Much of the appeal of this competent 6 x 8in (15 x 20cm) sketch lies in its subject matter.
Polished scenes of British ships smashing the French and Spanish fleet off Cape Trafalgar on October 21, 1805, were painted in the thousands. Much harder to find are images of day-to-day life on deck showing officers and crew going about their daily tasks.
This watercolour gives as much prominence to the pony-tailed and shirtless ‘Jack Tars’ carrying buckets and pulling rigging as it does to the party of naval officers in full dress and a Marine ‘redcoat’. In the background is the bow of a ship at anchor flying the Cross of St George, the Admiral of the White squadron command flag in use from 1702-1864.
The work is dated lower left RN 1805 and signed indistinctly lower right: C Rees Pryer. As the technique suggests a good amateur rather than professional hand, it is possible he was a member of the crew.
A c.1980s label to the reverse indicates the picture was bought from Duncan Baggott Antiques in Stow-on-the-Wold for £595 (at the time around $1000). Offered for sale in Florida on August 5-6 with a guide of $1000- 1500, it hammered for $13,000 (£10,400) plus 26% buyer’s premium.