End of the day, War of 1812 era, a seaport in France. A "Virginia-built" privateer threads the needle between two anchored French 74-gun ships of war. The incident isn't documented, but likely to have occured. This painitng is a study in contrasts; fore-and-aft versus square rig, swift and nimble versus heavy and deliberate, sparse decoration versus ornate, new design versus old, etc.
A young nation at this point, the United States had the audacity to declare war on a super-power. It's swift Virginia schooners were an innovative answer to the huge power imbalance with the enemy. In those day of hunter and prey on the high seas, the painting shows a saucy Yankee cutting close past two sleeping men-of-war, showing as much respect for their proximity as she did for the British blockade.