Dissatisfied with his standard issue hessian army boots, Wellington asked a shoemaker named George Hoby, of St James's Street, to produce a superior pair. The improved boots were made in soft calf skin, with low heels, and rose to the mid-calf. The duke is seen here wearing the new boots, which are decorated with tassels. They soon became essential kit for British aristocrats and in 1852 American entrepreneur Hiram Hutchinson collaborated with American inventor Charles Goodyear to manufacture the first rubber Wellington boots.
Having lost the American colonies a few decades earlier, the Battle of Waterloo came to represent a turning point in the fortunes of Britain. On 18 June 1815, Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo in Belgium by an Anglo-Allied army under the command of the Duke of Wellington. In the following years the Battle came to be viewed as a defining moment in British history, celebrated throughout the 19th century.
This portrait was painted in 1815, the year Wellington attended the Congress of Vienna in early February and won his victory over Napoleon’s troops at Waterloo in June. The portrait was presumably painted late in the year to commemorate Wellington’s part in military and diplomatic events.
James Lonsdale was born in Lancaster. He became a pupil of George Romney and a student at the Royal Academy. He first exhibited at the Academy in 1802. On the death of John Opie in 1807, Lonsdale purchased Opie’s house in Berners Street, where he resided for the rest of his life. He was one of the founders of the Society of British Artists. He was also Portrait Painter in Ordinary to the Duke of Sussex and Queen Caroline and a portrait painter to the Beefsteak Society. He painted ‘King John signing the Magna Carta’ for the Duke of Norfolk at Arundel Castle and painted the Emperor of Russia, the King of the Belgians and Archduke Maximilian of Austria. Lonsdale died in Berners Street in January 1839. He left a widow and three sons.
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