This comprehensive group portrait depicts the moment a toast is made during the Duke of Wellington’s Waterloo Banquet, held annually from 1829 until the Duke’s death in 1852 for the officers who served under him in the Peninsular Wars. The guests are assembled in the magnificent 90-foot long Waterloo Gallery at Apsley House, the Duke’s residence in London.
The year depicted is 1836, when King William IV and the artist of this work, William Salter, attended the banquet. In order to capture each attendee’s facial features, Salter painted the moment Edward IV rose to make a toast, just before dessert was served and after the guests had moved to converse in small groups. This allowed each person’s features to be seen by the viewer of the work. The artist also included examples of Wellington’s impressive art collection on display in the room, including van Dyck’s portrait of ‘Charles I on Horseback’ and Velazquez’s ‘Water Seller’.
The oil painting on which this print is based can be seen in the collection at Apsley House today. Oil studies for individual portraits included in the work are in the National Portrait Gallery, London, and an oil study for the composition was sold through Christie’s, London, in 2005.
William Salter was born in Honiton, Devon, but moved to London in his teens to become a pupil of James Northcote. Salter later travelled to Florence, where he was elected a member of the Florentine Academy of Fine Arts and also a member of the Rome and Parma Academies. He returned to England in 1833 and began working on ‘The Waterloo Banquet at Apsley House’, his most successful work. It took six years to complete and includes 84 portraits. In 1846 he became a member of the Society of British Artists, later becoming the Vice-President. In 1838, he presented an altarpiece, showing the ‘Descent from the Cross’, to the parish church in Horniton, the place of his birth. He died of bronchitis at his home in Fulham, leaving a widow, Mary.
The Waterloo Banquet at Apsley House, 18 June 1836
published 18 June 1846
height: 63.00 cm, width: 112.00 cm
Purchased from Christopher Wood Gallery, September 1982
Sold through Bonhams, London, on 21 July 1982 (Lot 32; with a print after C. R. Leslie); from which sale purchased by Christopher Wood Gallery, London; from whom purchased by the Government Picture Collection (without Leslie print) in September 1982
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