Painting, Capture of H.M. Frigate Java by American Frigate Constitution

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Designed by Joshua Humphreys, Constitution was built in Boston in 1797. It measured 174 feet 10 inches in length, 43 feet 6 inches in beam, 14 feet 3 inches in depth of hold, and 1,576 tons. It was also known as Old Ironsides. The Constitution is still in commission at the Charlestown Navy Yard in Boston, making it the oldest ship in the United States Navy.
Java was originally a French frigate named Renommée. It measured 1,073 tons. The British ships Astrae, Phoebe, Galatea, and Racehorse, under the command of Captain Charles Schomberg, captured Java near Madagascar in May 1811.
The painting by Thomas Whitcombe shows the two ships engaged in combat on December 29, 1812 off the coast of Brazil. Several sailors can be seen clinging to wreckage floating to the right of the battle scene. The two-hour battle was a victory for the United States and did much to increase the prestige of the country. The American Captain William Bainbridge was badly wounded and the British Captain Henry Lambert was mortally wounded. Thomas Whitcombe (1752-1824) was a British marine painter. After the battle, Java was deemed unfit for repair and burned.
Currently not on view
date made
Whitcombe, Thomas
Physical Description
oil on canvas (overall material)
without frame: 19 in x 27 1/4 in; 48.26 cm x 69.215 cm
with frame: 26 in x 34 in; 66.04 cm x 86.36 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Gift of CIGNA Museum and Art Collection
See more items in
Work and Industry: Maritime
Cigna Maritime Collection
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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