John Singleton Copley hangs in the National Gallery of Art, in Washington, DC.
Sir Brook Watson, Bart. was a prominent 18th century London businessman, soldier and politician. In 1749, 14 year old Brook was attacked by a shark while swimming in Havana Harbor. At the moment depicted in this painting the shark had already attacked Watson twice and had torn his right calf and severed his right foot. His fellow seamen rescued him as the shark moved in for a third attack. Watson commissioned this painting 29 years later. A large panel describing Watson's distinguished biography accompanies Copley's painting.
THIS PICTURE REPRESENTING A REMARKABLE OCCURRENCE IN THE LIFE OF BROOK WATSON WAS BEQUEATHED TO THE ROYAL HOSPITAL OF CHRIST IN LONDON BY HIS WILL.
HE WAS OF A VERY GOOD FAMILY IN THE NORTH OF ENGLAND BUT HAVING LOST BOTH HIS PARENTS EARLY IN LIFE WAS BROUGHT UP BY AN AUNT, AND BEFORE THE AGE OF FOURTEEN YEARS MANIFESTED A STRONG PREDILECTION FOR THE SEA, WHICH LED TO THE MISFORTUNE REPRESENTED IN THE PICTURE.
HE SERVED IN THE COMMISSARIAT DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY UNDER THE IMMORTAL WOLFE AT LOUISBERG IN 1758.
IN 1759 HE WAS ESTABLISHED AS A MERCHANT IN LONDON AND WAS SUBSEQUENTLY CALLED UPON TO ACT AS COMMISSARY GENERAL TO THE ARMY IN AMERICA COMMANDED BY SIR GUY CARLETON, LATE LORD DORCHESTER.
ON HIS RETURN FROM THAT SERVICE HE WAS ELECTED AN ALDERMAN OF THE CITY OF LONDON AND ONE OF ITS REPRESENTATIVES IN PARLIAMENT, AND CONTINUED MEMBER OF THE HOUSE OF COMMONS TILL HE WAS APPOINTED TO THE SITUATION OF COMMISSARY GENERAL TO THE ARMY UNDER HIS ROYAL HIGHNESS THE DUKE OF YORK, ACTING ON THE CONTINENT OF EUROPE.
IN 1796 HE WAS CHOSEN LORD MAYOR AND IN 1803 CREATED A BARONET OF THE UNITED KINGDOM.
HE DIED IN 1807, AN ALDERMAN OF THE CITY OF LONDON, DEPUTY GOVERNOR OF THE BANK OF ENGLAND, &C, &C THUS SHEWING THAT A HIGH SENSE OF INTEGRITY AND RECTITUDE WITH A FIRM RELIANCE ON AN OVER RULING PROVIDENCE UNITED TO ACTIVITY AND EXERTION ARE THE SOURCES OF PUBLIC AND PRIVATE VIRTUE AND THE ROAD TO HONOURS AND RESPECT.
THE PICTURE WAS PAINTED BY JOHN SINGLETON COPLEY ESQ. ROYAL ACADEMICIAN IN THE YEAR 1778.
Ethan Allen who as a prisoner was accompanied by Watson on a 1775 voyage to England said this of him, “was put under the power of an English Merchant from London, whose name was Brook Watson: a man of malicious and cruel disposition, and who was probably excited, in the exercise of his malevolence, by a junto of tories, who sailed with him to England ...”
This 1803 caricature of 68 year old Brook Watson on his peg leg is by Robert Dighton.