Whaling Barque 'Symmetry' - Unknown Artist (c.1860)
oil on canvas, 46 x 76 cm
KINCM:1982.519, Hull Maritime Museum

The Symmetry was built in Scarborough in 1763, and first registered in Hull in 1815. She was lost in the fishery six years later in 1821. The artist depicts the vessel in a straightforward starboard view, the horizon line just below the rigging to ensure a clear depiction of the sails. On the right horizon is a large white landmass, suggesting, perhaps, both the frozen Arctic and, more likely, the white cliffs of Dover, given the otherwise inexplicable presence of the pair of smaller sailing vessels surrounding the central ship. But it makes little sense to locate a Northern Fishery vessel on the south coast, since the standard route to the Arctic was north east out of Hull, and up around Scotland, before heading across the Atlantic. The Dover coast would make more sense if the Symmetry had been engaged in the Southern (Pacific) Fishery since then the vessel might be en route. Perhaps, though, the artist is making a patriotic point: that the Greenland coast is as much a recognisable part of Britain as the white cliffs of Dover, and that the British are equally able to thrive in either location.

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Credit: Images are courtesy of the Hull Maritime Museum