This is a fine portrait of East Indiaman Boddam. She was 1021 tons, built for William Palmer (c. 1748-1821) of the East India Company at the Barnard shipyard in Deptford and launched on 27th December 1787. Her first voyage was under the command of Captain Joseph Elliott, sailing from Portsmouth on 5th April 1788, bound for Madras and China.
Here she is shown next to the shipyard with a fine view towards Greenwich, clearly recognisable from the depiction of the Naval Hospital and the tower of the parish church of St. Alfege. In the foreground we see the day to day activity on this part of the Thames, fishing boats and an elegant couple being rowed across the river. As in many of his works, Luny shows the ship from different viewpoints and it may be that she is also depicted in the dock under construction.
The Boddam had a long and distinguished career completing some six East India Company voyages to Madras and China between 1788 and 1803. In 1797 she was involved in the Bali Strait Incident in which six East Indiamen, when confronted with a superior force of French frigates, managed to bluff the French force into believing they were a much more powerful force.
The ship's owner, William Palmer was intimately linked with the rise of British power in India. Palmer was ADC to Warren Hastings in 1774 and Military Secretary between 1776 and 1785. He was at the Lucknow court at various times between 1782 and 1785 as Hastings' confidential agent for the extraction of loans from the Nawab and to report on the Residents Middleton and Bristow and their staff, and acting Resident after their departure. He left Lucknow in July 1785, and in 1786 was appointed by Cornwallis to be Resident at Sindhia's court, where he remained until 1798, and at the Peshwa's court in Poona 1798-1801. He afterwards commanded the 4th Native Infantry until his death at Berhampore in 1816 having risen to the rank of General. Plamer is also remembered for taking a Moghul princess as his second wife and is famously depicted with her and his family by Zoffany in an unfinished group portrait which is today in the British Library. (see fig.1)
Given Luny's close contact with the East India Company and Palmers' role within it in India the present painting might well have been commissioned by Palmer himself. Palmer was also probably instrumental in the naming of the ship as it was named for Rawson Hart Boddam (1734-1812) who was Governor of Bombay from 1784-1788. Boddam is last mentioned in Lloyds Register in 1806.
Most probably commissioned by the merchant William Palmer (? 1748-1821) in 1787;
Then Thomas Stapleton, Esq., Stanson’s Wharf, London, c. 1880 (see label on the reverse);
Private collection, Belgium. Purchased in London, c. 1950.