In Skyfall, while Bond first meets Q in a museum they are watching the painting of a ship dragged by another ship and Q remarks:

Always makes me feel a little melancholy. A grand old warship being hauled away for scrap. Inevitability of time, don't you think?

Which is rather ignored by Bond who just sees a "bloody big ship". Given that the aging of Bond (and the political aging of the whole MI6) is a major theme of the movie, it doesn't take much to see that this "grand old warship" is a symbol for Bond himself (or maybe the MI6 as a whole).

Now during the last scene, when Bond is in Mallory's (or rather M's) office and more ready to go on than ever you can shortly see another painting of a ship. My question is: What painting is that?, and even more important, Is this related to the earlier usage of a painted ship as a symbol (maybe now emphasizing the atmoshpere of rejuvenation or something the like)?

Now of course I could be overinterpreting things here and it is just, well, a "bloody big ship", but given the usage of the stolen Modigliani in the assassination scene in Shanghai it may also be that the movie indeed has a "thing" for paintings.

  • Interesting. I spotted the painting when I saw it at the cinema, and thought they'd goofed and re-used the prop. When I watch it back now, it clearly is a different painting.
    – Polynomial
    Jan 2, 2013 at 21:17

1 Answer 1


The painting in the museum is J.M.W. Turner's The Fighting Temeraire

This is a painting of a ship that had played an important part in the Battle of Trafalgar, but 34 years later, was being towed to be broken up for scrap.

The Fighting Temeraire

(File from Wikipedia Commons)

That bit was easy to work out. It is one of the most famous British paintings and I recognized it immediately.

The painting from M's office is much less well known, but is picture of the Battle of Trafalgar showing with HMS Victory with other ships. The clever part from the Writers/Director of Skyfall is that the Temeraire was the ship that closely followed HMS Victory into battle at Trafalgar where the British won convincingly against a larger force, the Temeraire capturing two "prize" ships.

The suggestion from the appearance of this pair of paintings is that we are no longer seeing a tired old warrior any more, but same warrior is seen as if reborn, ready for action. It is clearly no coincidence, and the director is using the pictures to symbolize Bond rejuvenated and ready to carry out the next mission for Her Majesty's Government.

There is a more detailed analysis in this excellent blog post. Great Question, made me look into this.

  • 2
    +1 Wow, thanks for the answer. That blog post is amazing, I wouldn't have imagined that much symbolism in those paintings (or the other paintings I didn't even notice). Truely exceeded my exceptations.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Jan 2, 2013 at 23:42
  • @ChristianRau. I enjoyed answering. Knowing the name of the Turner painting is the key - I would not have found the blog post otherwise.
    – iandotkelly
    Jan 3, 2013 at 0:32
  • Great answer i just bumped into this right now and that blog post really good stuff we should've that person join movies SE.
    – Dredd
    Jan 24, 2014 at 22:22

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