Volanakis won renown as the foremost Greek marine painter of the nineteenth century through his masterful representation of ships, detailed recordings of naval battles and sensitive rendering of atmospheric changes. Variously signed and dated, burning boats at sea were a common subject matter for the artist, who sometimes worked on them with the assistance of his studio. In the present work, through the use of light and colour, Volanakis has presented the ambush to theatrical effect. The billowing flames from the smaller fire ship set against the tilting frigate are dramatised by a swirling cloud of smoke. Volanakis has chosen to set the scene against an almost monochromatic moonlit sky and sea, setting into relief the vibrant reds and yellows of the smoke and flames.
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