French ironclad Magenta

For the later ironclad battleship, see French ironclad Magenta (1890).
Magenta, Napoléon and Solférino anchored in the harbor at Brest,  France.
Name: Magenta
Namesake: Battle of Magenta
Builder: Brest
Laid down: 22 June 1859
Launched: 22 June 1861
Fate: Exploded and sank 31 October 1875
General characteristics
Class and type: Magenta-class ironclad
Displacement: 7,129 tonnes 
Speed: 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph)
Endurance: 3 months of food, 700 tonnes of coal
Complement: 681 men
  • 10 × 240 mm (9.4 in) guns
  • 4 × 190 mm (7.5 in) guns
  • 50 × rifled 30-pounders

Magenta was a broadside ironclad of the French Navy, lead ship of her class. She served as flagship of the Mediterranean Squadron.

On 21 July 1875, Magenta was serving as flagship in a naval exercise involving six ironcladsMagenta and five Alma-class central battery ironclads – and a number of smaller ships in the Tyrrhenian Sea off the east coast of Corsica . The ironclads were steaming in beautiful weather at 8 knots in two parallel columns, with Magenta leading one column, followed by Jeanne d′Arc and Reine Blanche, and Armide leading the other, followed by Thétis and Alma. At 12:00 noon the admiral commanding the squadron ordered the screw corvette Forfait, operating as a dispatch vessel, to pass astern of Magenta to receive orders. Attempting to place his ship in the column between Magenta and Jeanne d′Arc, the commanding officer of Forfait misjudged his turn, and Jeanne d′Arc collided with Forfait, her ram bow tearing into Forfait′s side. Forfait sank 14 minutes later, her crew of 160 taking safely to her boats; her commanding officer floated free from the bridge as Forfait sank beneath him, but also was rescued.[1][2]

On 31 October 1875, an accidental nighttime galley fire started aboard Magenta while she was in port at the naval base at Toulon, France, and spread out of control. Her crew was able to flood her forward gunpowder magazine but could not reach her after magazine. When it became clear that the ship could not be saved, her crew abandoned ship, and Magenta′s after magazine exploded shortly afterward, 2 hours 55 minutes after the fire broke out.[3] She sank in 15 meters (49 feet) of water. At the time of the accident, Magenta had a cargo of Carthaginian antiques, notably 2080 Punic stelae (Tophet, 2nd century BC) and a marble statue of Vibia Sabina (Thasos, c. 127-128 AD), found in 1874 by the Pricot de Sainte-Marie mission.

The wreck was located in April 1994. Fragments of stelae have since been recovered.[4] The statue has been partially recovered, though the head was too damaged to be rejoined to the rest of the statue. The fragments are on display at the Louvre in Paris.[5]


  1. Rockwell, p. 146
  2. The ramming of the Forfait by the Jeanne d’Arc, 1875
  3. Chesneau, Roger, and Kolesnik, Eugene M., eds., Conway′s All the World′s Fighting Ships 1860-1905, New York: Mayflower Books, 1979, ISBN 0-8317-0302-4, p. 287.
  4. "Le Magenta : statue de l'impératrice Sabine". (in French). 2001. Retrieved 20 March 2013.
  5. "Site officiel du musée du Louvre". (in French). 2013. Retrieved 20 March 2013.


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