Horatio Nelson, Viscount Nelson (1758-1805) Vice-Admiral & Victor of Trafalgar
About the work
Place: Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, Whitehall
Lord Nelson is seen here in Rear-Admiral’s full-dress uniform. Above his right eye is his ‘Nile scar’, the result of a wound he received during the Battle of the Nile, which reportedly left an inch of his cranium exposed.
The Battle of the Nile took place at Aboukir Bay on the Egyptian coast from 1 to 3 August 1798. After defeating the French, Nelson returned to England in 1800 to a hero’s welcome. Artists quickly responded to increased demand for his portrait. When the city of Norwich decided to commission a portrait of the Norfolk-born hero, the painter William Beechey, who had married a Norfolk woman and had already painted Nelson’s father, seemed an obvious choice. A full-length portrait (now at Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery) was commissioned from Beechey by the Chamberlain of the city. The artist and sitter were soon on friendly terms and Nelson became honorary godfather to Beechey’s son, Charles, presenting the boy with the cocked hat he had worn at the Nile.
Several autograph copies and versions of Beechey’s portrait of Nelson survive today. This painting, based closely on Beechey’s full-length work, is by an unidentified artist.
About the artist
Sir William Beechey was born in Burford, Oxfordshire. After his father’s death (1789) he was raised by his uncle and initially apprenticed to a firm of solicitors. In 1772 he moved to London to enter the Royal Academy Schools. He soon married and his children include painter and explorer Henry William. From c.1782 he worked in Norwich, returning to London in 1787. Beechey was a widow by 1793, when he married miniature painter Anne Phyllis Jessop. In 1794 he became a member of the Royal Academy, received a knighthood and exhibited ‘His Majesty Reviewing the Third Dragoon Guards’, his most celebrated work. He was named portrait painter to the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester and Principle Portrait Painter to William IV before his death aged 85.
Sir William, (after) Beechey
- Horatio Nelson, Viscount Nelson (1758-1805) Vice-Admiral & Victor of Trafalgar
- Oil on canvas
- height: 126.00 cm, width: 100.00 cm
- Purchased from the Executors of E Culme-Seymour, 1970
- Collection of Commander E. Culme-Seymour RN (and on loan to the Ministry of Works from 1962); by whose executors sold to the Department of the Environment in 1970
- GAC number