The Duke of Wellington, depicted when he was Major-General Sir Arthur Wellesley, looks to the viewer with a slight smile as he stands beside Admiral Nelson, who indicates a position on a map and gazes into the distance. This print illustrates the one brief meeting between Britain’s two great commanders of the Napoleonic Wars. In September 1805 they waited together in a Whitehall ante-room for separate meetings with Lord Castlereagh, who was then Secretary of State for War and the Colonies. The younger Wellington initially found Nelson ‘vain and silly’, but the Admiral’s countenance changed after he left the room to check the identity of his companion. On his return the two men found common ground and Wellington later reported ‘…I don’t know that I ever had a conversation that interested me more’.
When the print was advertised for sale in ‘The Athenaeum’ in 1839, the text explained that Wellesley’s ‘…fame, though high amongst all those who knew anything of the concerns of that remote region [of India], had not yet become so familiar to the mass of society at home: consequently, the features now so familiar to all, were then so little known – even to Nelson…’
Samuel William Reynolds was a painter and engraver. Despite publishing his first prints in the mid-1790s, he found himself in debt by 1800 and came to rely upon the financial help of Samuel Whitbread MP. It was under Whitbread’s patronage that Reynolds was able to broaden his interests to include painting, architecture and landscape design. He exhibited paintings at the Royal Academy and British Institution and was also a collector; owning a group of drawings by Thomas Girtin. In 1809 he visited France for the first time and he went on to exhibit engravings at the Paris Salon in 1810 and 1812. Reynolds also worked in Paris on occasion, where he found a market for his paintings of landscapes and cottage scenes.
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