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a recent trip that I made to London, I came across a wonderful painting
by Turner at the National Gallery: "The Fighting Temeraire".
This particular painting created a furor at the time, because the painter
had taken the liberty, for aesthetic reasons, to alter the right order
in which the tug's masts and smoke stack ought to go. We are told that
the most telling detail in the picture of the ship is a vacant space.
A jack-staff would formerly have been fixed to the top of the bowsprit
cap; it is now missing. When in harbour, and she had been in harbour
for 26 years, the "Temeraire" would have flown the red, white
and blue union flag from her jack-staff. From the moment that she was
sold out of the Navy, the "Temeraire" could no longer fly
the flag. Where the union flag once flew, the tug's smoke now ascends.
The full poignancy of the lines Turner adapted from Campbell can now
To Turner's annoyance, the positions of the tug's funnel
and its mast were to be "corrected" by J.T. Willmore in his
engraving of 1845. Arguments over Turner's alleged
"mistakes" over the position of the tug's mast and the
direction of his sunset were revived nearly forty years
after the exhibition of his painting, and have hardly
What is so astonishing is to see in today's digital world,
some of the same debates being brought up and with the same
sense of self-righteous outcry for what is considered to be
the none-altered version of a picture.