Brian Lavery - Maritime History Expert


Brian has identified many ships and coastlines in paintings in galleries and private collections.

One of my first successes was to prove that the painting on the ceiling of the Commissioner’s House at Chatham Historic Dockyard really had been installed in the cabin of the First Rate ship Royal Sovereign.

painting ceiling of Commissioners House Chatham
Turner The fighting Temeraire

Since then, during my work at the national Maritime Museum, I was often called on to identify ships and locations in paintings.

I worked on the National Gallery exhibition on Turner’s Fighting Temeraire.

I identified this painting as showing the arrival of George I to take up the British throne in 1714, the start of the Hanoverian Dynasty.

Earliest known view of HMS Victory

I identified the ship near the centre of the picture as the earliest known view of HMS Victory.

Identification of ships at the Battle of Trafalgar

Identification of some of the ships at the Battle of Trafalgar, in a painting in private ownership.

The Frigate Surprise

I have worked with marine artists, particularity Geoff Hunt who produced the covers for some of my books including Nelson’s Navy. 

Geoff wrote that he had ‘immense respect’ for my scholarship and that with others, ‘I learned from them the deep satisfaction to be found in original research.’

We worked together on a volume on HMS Surprise, the ship in many of the classic Patrick O’Brian novels.

I have also worked with Peter Kent, an old friend from Greenwich, who produces birds eye views of ports, rivers and other sites.

The Frigate Surprise - Brian Lavery