Christopher Kovacs - Fine Art
June 25, 2024   12:32 pm NL Time

Protecting Placentia

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Protecting Placentia


Status of Original Painting – For Sale

All prices are in Canadian dollars

Size: 14.5 x 20  inches

Price: Inquire

Medium: Watercolour on 300 lb Arches


The dramatic perspective in this painting is from Castle Hill National Historical Site, which overlooks the town of Placentia in Newfoundland and Labrador. The two smoothbore cannons appear to guard Placentia Bay and the lift bridge that provides access to the town. I took the reference photographs on a lovely and perfect fall day in 2020. Castle Hill is a great place for a picnic, long walks on its trails, seeing the sites and wildlife, looking out at the seascape to glimpse whales cavorting, and learning about the history of the area. I knew when I took the photos that I would be using them as reference for a painting.

Castle Hill was first fortified in 1693. During the 17th and 18th centuries, it became the site of armed conflicts between French and British in their struggles to control North America. Archaeological work has excavated earthworks, stone walls, artillery batteries, six cannons, cannon balls, fishhooks, ceramics, and other artefacts that are visible on the grounds or displayed in the on-site museum.

Placentia itself has a long history. The site was originally occupied by aboriginal people and then their direct descendants, the Beothuk. Basque fishermen (from the Basque regions of France and Spain) then began fishing the area in the early 1500s. This has been confirmed by the will of a Basque seaman who asked in 1563 that he be buried “in this port of Plazençia.” As of the late 17th century, English and French settlers and fishermen dominated the area, and this led to the gradual and tragic disappearance of the Beothuk from here and the rest of Newfoundland. Placentia became a prominent rival of St. John’s, the capital city of Newfoundland. Indeed, it was home to about one-quarter of Newfoundland’s population in the late 1700s, and Prince William Henry (the future King William IV) preferred using Placentia as his base of operations and summer home when stationed in Newfoundland during 1786. Over time Placentia’s relative importance has declined and it is currently home to about 3,500 people.

The meaning of the name Placentia is uncertain. It’s probably a Basque term given Plazençia in that archival document, but it is probably derived from the Latin word placentia, which means smooth. Placentia’s large beach was relatively smooth, enabling fish to be salted and dried on the beach rocks rather than constructing elaborate fishing stages for that purpose.

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