by Guy Head
oil on canvas, 1798-1799
87 3/4 in. x 66 1/2 in. (2229 mm x 1689 mm)
Click on the links below to find out more:
Sitterback to top
- Horatio Nelson, Viscount Nelson (1758-1805), Vice-Admiral and victor of Trafalgar. Sitter in 85 portraits.
This portraitback to top
Coming from a modest background, the Nelson of popular imagination was a humane commander who had the common touch and ignored the divisions of rank or faction. In this portrait of 1798-9 he appears with one of his midshipmen at the moment of victory during the famous Battle of the Nile (1798). The younger man hands over the French admiral's sword wrapped in a captured French flag. In the background two battle-scarred ships fly white ensigns hoisted over French tricolours under a dramatic stormy sky. The portrait, which commemorates one of the most decisive victories in English naval history, is based on life studies made by Guy Head, who met Nelson in Naples soon after the event. The portrait shows Nelson's earlier loss of an arm but the artist has taken the licence of showing Nelson otherwise unscathed, though in truth his forehead should have been bandaged as a result of the serious wounds he received. By the end of battle, Nelson had been wounded above his right eye, was bandaged, bloodstained and exhausted and far from the polished officer at ease on his quarterdeck.
Linked publicationsback to top
- Cooper, John, Great Britons: The Great Debate, 2002, p. 90
- Holmes, Richard; Crane, David; Woof, Robert; Hebron, Stephen, Romantics and Revolutionaries: Regency portraits from the National Portrait Gallery, 2002, p. 105
- Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 455
- Simon, Jacob, The Art of the Picture Frame: Artists, Patrons and the Framing of Portraits in Britain, 1997 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 8 November 1996 - 9 February 1997), p. 68
Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top
- Nelson: before and after Trafalgar (2 July 2005 - 11 December 2005)
Subjects & Themesback to top
Events of 1798back to top
Current affairsTo meet war costs, William Pitt introduces a Finance Bill which levies income tax for the first time.
Art and scienceWilliam Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge publish Lyrical Ballads; a key publication for the romantic movement in poetry. Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner opens the volume.
Publisher and printseller Rudolph Ackermann establishes his popular 'Repository of the Arts' shop, gallery, library and social centre on the Strand.
InternationalUprising of the United Irishmen: a republican rebellion which attempted to achieve Ireland's total independence by force with the aid of a French invasion. It was only narrowly defeated.
Battle of the Nile. Napoleon's visionary Egyptian campaign offers British first major victory as Nelson destroys the French fleet.
See this portrait
On display at British Academy, London
- Nelson: before and after Trafalgar
- Viscount Nelson
- Plaster figure makers: a short history
- WebQuest: Pepys, Nelson, Seacole
- Only Connect
- Only Connect - Horatio Nelson <> Joseph Haydn
- Only Connect - Horatio Nelson <> William Hamilton
- Only Connect - Horatio Nelson <> Emma Hamilton
- Only Connect - Horatio Nelson <> Richard Cosway
- Only Connect - installation video
- My Favourite Portrait by Alan Titchmarsh
- Heroes of Trafalgar
- WebQuest: Diversity on Display
- Portrait of the Day: Horatio Nelson
28 July, 12:30