An old controversy is that EuroModel sells a ship model of la Renommée that is not la Renommée. EuroModel is a model kit and accessories company operating in Como, Italy. For many years it has offered to model builders a kit labeled La Renommée, 18th Century French Frigate. The standard cost is around 688,00 € ($848.07 US) which includes numerous downloadable and printed instruction booklets, bags of wood, rigging, and hardware parts to construct the ship model at a 1:70 scale.
The following is the sales description on their website:
18th Century French Frigate
There were two Renommee’s built in France, one in the 17 Century and this one in the 18 Century. Launched in 1744 at either Byrone or Brest, La Renommee was a one-off 40-gun ship designed by Antoine Groignard with 30 12-pounders and 10 8-pounder guns. She was captured by the British Navy (HMS Dover) 27 September 1747 and converted into a 30-gun fifth-rate frigate as the HMS Renown and served until she was broken up in 1771.
However, this type of frigate is very important in the evolution of ships of the British Navy because it inspired the development of a series of fifth-rate frigates equipped with only thirty guns of large caliber, all placed on the second deck.
Details for this ship have relied on Chapman’s book, ‘Architectura Navalis Mercatoria’ Plan XXXI
Although this is a well-known issue to ship modelers, it bears repeating for those who have never been made aware of the dispute. For all that the company has put into creating the product, we must commend their efforts. Yet over ten years ago their attention was drawn to the fact that their advertising copy was in error. Let us begin by diagnosing the lines, point-by-point, from their ad copy.
1. “There were two Renommee’s built in France, one in the 17 Century and this one in the 18 Century.”
• It is not at all uncommon for the name of a ship to be reused many times. Actually, there were, according to easily accessible reference materials, at least ten French naval vessels that sailed in just the 17th and 18th centuries bearing the name Renommée*:
(1.) 1651 to 1654 (frigate?)
(2.) 1661 to 1667 (flute)
(3.) 1665 to 1676 (galley)
(4.) 1680 to 1691 (barque longue)
(5.) 1698 to 1712 (frigate)
(6.) 1691 to 1701 (galley)
(7.) 1744 to 1771 (frigate)
(8.) 1767 to 1783 (frigate)
(9.) [1796?] to 1810 (frigate)
(10.) 1808 to 1813 (frigate)
*See my post of June 15, 2018, “The Other French La Renommée Ships”, in the Nautical Thoughts section for a more complete list with references and histories.
The Other French La Renommée Ships
2. “Launched in 1744 at either Byrone or Brest…”
• La Renommée of 1744 was launched at Brest.
3. “…La Renommee was a one-off 40-gun ship…”
• La Renommée of 1744 was a 30-gun ship.
4. “…designed by Antoine Groignard…”
• La Renommée of 1744 was designed by François-Guillaume Clairin Deslauriers. The later la Renommée of 1767 was designed by Antoine Groignard.
5. “…with 30 12-pounders and 10 8-pounder guns.”
• La Renommée of 1744 carried at launch 26 8-pounders and 4 4-pounders. Later after capture, the British armed her with 24 9-pounders and 6 4-pounders.
6. “She was captured by the British Navy (HMS Dover) 27 September 1747 and converted into a 30-gun fifth-rate frigate as the HMS Renown and served until she was broken up in 1771.”
7. “However, this type of frigate is very important in the evolution of ships of the British Navy because it inspired the development of a series of fifth-rate frigates equipped with only thirty guns of large caliber, all placed on the second deck.”
• Mostly correct but to be picky, only the heavier guns were on the second deck, lighter guns were on the quarterdeck and forecastle.
8. “Details for this ship have relied on Chapman’s book, ‘Architectura Navalis Mercatoria’ Plan XXXI”
• And herein lies the error that created the wrong identity for the ship being sold. Differences became obvious between EuroModel’s version and other historic records referencing la Renommée. According to the posts on the Shipmodeling website, sometime before 2005, Dmitry Sidorov discovered that a French book, “Souvenirs de la Marine” (Memories of the Navy) by Admiral Paris published in 1879 refers to an anchor similarity between la Renommée and another ship. Admiral Paris used the plan of the other ship to illustrate the similarity. The plan he used, Plates XXXI and XXXII, were taken from Chapman’s “Architectura Navalis Mercatoria” (Merchant Naval Architecture) published in 1768. Plate XXXI came from the section listing privateers, not naval vessels and nowhere on the plate or in the index does it state that the plans are of la Renommée or even French but only “frigate.” In the next book by Paris, he repeated the section by just copying the plans and labeling them either erroneously or generically “la Renommée.” According to Dmitry, EuroModel must have used that second book as its source for plans of la Renommée which were in fact not la Renommée but the ship Paris was drawing a comparison to. Dmitry also believed that the plans are actually of the Swedish ship Jupiter of 1760. The plans shown on the forum page do indeed look unlike the French frigate and more like the Swedish one.
An additional discussion in 2016 was also carried on the Nautical Research Guild’s Model Ship World posts. A number of discrepancies were pointed out about EuroModel’s ship and the construction methods of the 1740s. The writer stated that the model’s waist is too closed and the stern and gunport rows match later ship design, along with other inconsistencies.
In overlaying the National Maritime Museum plans of la Renommée taken immediately after the ship’s capture onto the EuroModel’s, it becomes apparent that EuroModel’s ship is not, nor could be unless massively reconstructed, the same ship. The 42 guns of EuroModel’s ship versus those on the NMM plans pierced for 30 guns, are in itself telling. No historical or biographical references were made to either la Renommée or the Renown as having 42 or even 40 guns. And as an artistic side note, the figurehead on Plate XXXI is the sculpture of a man. Renommée, or Fame in English, was traditionally depicted as a female figure carrying a trumpet and/or victory wreath, at least throughout the 18th century. Other artistic incompatibilities between the 1740s and later years are also easy to pick out on the model, such as the oval-shaped taffrail without side pillars and the use of more modest embellishments as opposed to the earlier, grandly-ornate baroque or Master Sculptor Caffieri’s post-baroque period styling. Also, the original drawings of the master sculptor are still in existence and do not match in any manner the quarter gallery, taffrail bas-relief, or figurehead that is on the EuroModel ship.
So, if the model is not the la Renommée of 1744, could it be one of a later year? Apparently not. None of the later la Renommée plans available match the size, cannons carried, or length of the model. It appears their model is the Jupiter or some other ship as yet unidentified.
One other slight but disturbing error is the ensign that EuroModel decided to use for the ship. It shows the French Republic Tricolor flag of red, white, and blue instead of the all-white one of the Bourbon era. The Tricolor was not used until after the beginning of the French Revolution, adopted in 1794. This is akin to portraying a colonial New England regiment during the French and Indian War carrying the Stars and Stripes into battle while Betsy Ross was only two years old. In EuroModel’s own ad copy they note la Renommée was broken up in 1771, twenty-three years before the Tricolor was used. How do they justify such obvious negligence in accurate detailing?
There is no doubt that EuroModel did a reasonable amount of research before producing the model. But when the discrepancies were revealed, EuroModel should have dug further to discover the actual name of the ship they were selling, corrected the errors, and settled the issue. As it stands now there are a lot of scale model ship builders out there rightfully proud of their model, but it’s not really la Renommée.