One of my favorite/regular wallper images is “Molly by the Sea” by Milo Manara.

milo manara

Molly by the Sea

This drawing depicts a woman watching as a British ship of the line leaves port, heading off to war. She wades out into the water, raising her skirts. The image originally appeared in the magazine, “Heavy Metal.”

“Molly” wears a dress with a ruffled collar. The sleeves are unbuttoned, revealing a white shift underneath. Her shoes are likely back on the beach. Clearly she’s not wearing much under her shift. It’s a breezy day. Molly’s tussled hair and the soaring seagulls convey the feel of the wind.

The ship is a two-decker, “Third Rate” ship of the line. Third rate ships carried between 64 and 80 guns, with most of the British third rates carrying 74 guns. So, Molly’s man was part of a crew of 500 to 650 officers, sailors and Marines. The ship flies the Red Ensign at the stern. The red flag flying on the main mast may be the flag of a Rear Admiral. Ships of the line derive that designation from their ability to stand in a line of warships. Squadrons of wooden ships approached their enemies in a line. This limited their attack profile. As they closed with the enemy, the ships turned. They presented a “broadside” to the enemy, hopefully bringing as many guns as possible to bear. Hard work and discipline enabled Royal Navy ships to defeat their French and Spanish foes in the Napoleonic era.

Realism versus fantasy

Manara is a fantasy writer and artist. His art is often erotic and tantalizing. It’s no surprise he sees Molly as a wife or lover who wants her man to return safe from the wars. While so much of the grand and epic art of the Napoleonic period avoids eroticism, Manara offers it to us. Since so many Royal Navy sailors served involuntary, their women struggled to make ends meet. Press gangs snatched men off the streets of port towns. All Molly could do is hike up her skirt and remind her man what he has waiting for him.



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