Collection Online
The ship's deck
oil on canvas on wood panel
56.4 × 47.0 cm
inscribed (diagonally) in black paint (in a later hand) l.r.: Manet
Accession Number
International Painting
Credit Line
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Felton Bequest, 1926
This digital record has been made available on NGV Collection Online through the generous support of Digitisation Champion Ms Carol Grigor through Metal Manufactures Limited
Gallery location
Gallery 4
Ground Level, NGV Australia

With Quentin (possibly a dealer), Paris; collection of John James Cowan
(1846–1936), Wester Lea, Murrayfield, Edinburgh, until 1926; Cowan sale, Christie's, London, 2 July 1926, no. 13; from where purchased, on the advice of Frank Rinder, for the Felton Bequest, 1926.

Exhibited Loan Exhibition of Pictures Mainly by Deceased Artists of the British and French and Dutch Schools, Museum and Art Gallery Kircaldy, London, 1925, no. 26.

Édouard Manet is generally remembered as a painter of modern urban life, whose major images reflect the social and psychological ambiguities of his time. This work, which stands at the beginning of Manet’s career and is executed with a characteristic freshness, belongs to a minor theme that he returned to many times throughout his life: imagery of the sea and ships. In 1848 Manet failed the entrance exam for the French naval officers’ school but bought his own passage as a junior helmsman on Le Havre et Guadaloupe, a three-masted ship headed for Rio de Janeiro. In most of Manet’s other paintings of this subject matter, it is the sea that occupies most of the canvas, but here Manet’s interest is in the ship itself as the vehicle for his immersion in nature. Seen from the truncated viewpoint of a helmsman, the plunging angles and stark lighting convey the painter’s enthusiasm for the sea. A sense of immediacy is created by a number of factors, including the way in which the composition is cropped at the left. The kind of pictorial structure used here, with its suggestion of the random and the seemingly spontaneous, is one that Manet carried with him from the early 1860s until the last years of his career. The virtuoso brushwork, the rapid and fluid touch in this painting, further imbues the composition with an ‘uncomposed’ appearance, while the restrained palette and tonal harmonies contribute to an overall atmosphere of stillness and calm.


The reframing of The ship’s deck (c.1860) followed on from the reframing work on The House at Rueil.
The former framing was Louis XV revival, the default framing of many French paintings of the second half of the C19th as they changed hands.
The proposal to reframe this painting and The Melon arose in April 2008.
The reframing is based on images of Manets paintings in their frames published in MANET RACONTÉ PAR LUI-MÊME, 1926, the posthumous Manet retrospective of 1884.

Original nineteenth century French frames that would suit both this picture and The Melon, were on offer from London.
For The ship’s deck two options of the classical revival form were offered, one with acanthus leaves in the corners.
The plainer option was preferred and the frame purchased in January 2010.
The frame arrived in March 2010 and was fitted to the painting.

The painting was cleaned and restored in 2007.

Unknown - 19th century
mid nineteenth century

wood, composition and gold leaf