L13404

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Lot 210
  • 210

Nelson, Horatio Lord--English provincial artist, after L.F. Abbott

Estimate
5,000 - 7,000 GBP
Sold
5,625 GBP
bidding is closed

Description

  • Portrait of Nelson
  • oil on board
half length, gaunt and stern face with his right eye visibly discoloured, in Rear-Admiral's undress uniform with a gold medal, probably the Order of the Bath, on a blue riband and a star on the breast, with white shirt frills and a black neckerchief, oil on panel, oval (815 x 520mm), dated 1802 on the reverse and with a label ("Lord Nelson | [Ta]ken out of an | [ol]d Man of War"), set into a rectangular wooden frame (995 x 665mm)

Provenance

Peter Schuyler Bruff (1750-1823), thence by descent.

Catalogue Note

An unusual contemporary portrait of Nelson, almost unique in depicting him with an unmistakably discoloured and blind eye. This portrait is believed to have been commissioned by Peter Schuyler Bruff (1750-1823), who had a distinguished record of service under Nelson. He served as Master on HMS Orion at the Battle of the Nile - his log recording the battle is preserved at the National Archives (ADM 52/3265) - and was also on HMS Elephant, Nelson's flagship, at the Battle of Copenhagen. During his service on the Elephant, in particular, he would have had ample opportunity to observe his admiral at first-hand. Comparison of the costume shows that the portrait itself was almost certainly derived from a contemporary engraving after Abbott. The wood appears to have been tarred, and the presence of nail heads and remains of boards suggest that the portrait may have been painted on the shaved-down lid of a ship's barrel. Since the artist could not have known the true appearance of Nelson's left eye, he almost certainly must have taken instruction from Bruff about this aspect of Nelson's appearance. A small number of other portraits have some similarities, in particular J.H. Schmidt's 1800 portrait shows Nelson with a similarly indistinct blue iris, although less pronounced, and without a discernible pupil, but this image provides a unique and unsparing insight into the true appearance of Britain's greatest naval hero.
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