The painting depicts a true incident from the war of the first French republic, as the artist remarks in the catalog of the exhibition in The Hague 1857. The French ship ‘Le Feu’ sank during a campaign in the North Sea, only five sailors managed to enter a raft. After two days they were spotted by a British ship which sent a sloop to them. But the French sailors defended themselves until death to avoid captivity. The subject of the painting with shipwrecked men, crowded together on a raft goes back to the famous painting ‘The Raft of the Medusa’ by Théodore Géricault (1819). But while Gericault chose to show a blameful, scandalous incident within the French navy, Slingeneyer decided to depict a heroic story with great pathos.
During the abovementioned exhibitions in The Hague and Brussels the painting was widely admired. In his lexicon „De levens en werken der Hollandsche en Vlaamsche kunstschilderers, beeldhouwers, graveurs en bouwmeesters, van den vroegsten to op onzen tijd“, Amsterdam 1857-1864, the Dutch art historian Christiaan Kramm highlights this painting. The artwork is also noticed in the „Annuaire de l‘Académie Royale des Sciences, des Lettres et des Beaux-Arts de Belgique“, Brussels 1915-1919, and in „Les artistes belges contemporains: leur vie, leurs oeuvres, leur place dans l’art“ by Edmond-Louis de Taeye, Brussels 1894.
A photo, taken before 1940, shows the painting located in Kasteel Enghuizen. According to the former owner the painting was sold c. 1940 and taken out of its frame, folded and later rolled up to hide it from the German occupators. Kasteel Enghuizen was damaged in the last days of World War II and demolished in 1948.
The canvas is relined and mounted on a new stretcher frame. Inspection under UV light reveals many retouching and repainting. The cracks in the surface and the losses of paint due to the abovementioned folding are skillfully restored. The signature has been partially retouched. A detailed restoration report is available on request.
Ernest Slingeneyer (1820-1894)
His artistic training Ernest Slingeneyer received at the academy of Antwerp by Gustave Wappers. From his first beginning he prefered to paint historic themes. With only 19 years he exhibited his first painting. The colossal painting ‘Le Vengeur’, exhibited in 1845 at the ‘Salon of Brussels’, was admired by the Belgian king. He was showered with honours and received numerous orders. In 1878 he was in charge of executing 13 painting for the great hall of the ‘Academiënpalais’ in Brussels and was paid with a record payment of 122.000 Belgian Franc. His great success and influence led to a late political career in the Belgian Parliament.