Napoleon Bonaparte wears the uniform of the Chasseurs and stands in a ship’s gangway, leaning his right elbow on a bulwark. In 1815 Napoleon surrendered to Captain Frederick Maitland of the ‘Bellerophon’ during the Battle of Waterloo. He was detained on the ship in Plymouth Sound. In July 1815, C. L. Eastlake was among thousands of people who travelled to the ‘Bellerophon’ in small boats to catch a glimpse of the fallen emperor. Bonaparte appeared for sightseers at about 6pm each evening. Noticing a young artist sketching him each day, Napoleon held his pose for and also arranged for his uniform and decorations to be sent to Eastlake. Eastlake produced two portraits. The best-known shows Napoleon with his fellow French prisoners and British sailors (National Maritime Museum, Greenwich).
This engraving was produced from Eastlake’s earlier, smaller portrait. The work was taken aboard the ‘Eurotas’, on which several of Napoleon’s officers were being held; one of whom pronounced Eastlake’s portrait ‘the best resemblance I've seen’. The painting also received considerable attention and praise when exhibited at a gallery in Piccadilly in 1815. Eastlake is the only British painter to have painted Napoleon from life.
Charles Turner was born in Woodstock, Oxfordshire; the son of an excise officer. At a young age he moved to London, where he was apprenticed to engraver John Jones and studied at the Royal Academy schools. He later produced work in mezzotint, aquatint and stipple for publishers in London and Scotland. He also began publishing his own prints in 1796. In 1812 he was appointed Engraver-in-Ordinary to George III. He was elected an associate of the Royal Academy in 1828. Throughout his career he is thought to have produced 638 portrait engravings and over 300 subject engravings. These were generally made after works by contemporary artists, such as Raeburn, Lawrence and J. M. W. Turner, with whom the engraver enjoyed a long standing friendship.
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