COMING HOME: Horatio Nelson
12 October 2019 - 26 January 2020
Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery, Norwich
by Sir William Beechey
Horatio Nelson was born in Burnham Thorpe, Norfolk, in 1758. His bravery, leadership and strategic brilliance as a naval commander during the wars with France gripped the contemporary popular imagination and rendered him a hero in life and long after his death. However, he is also known to have been a passionate supporter of British colonisation in the West Indies, and strongly opposed to the abolition of slavery. Consequently, such unalloyed admiration has been questioned in recent years.
In recognition of his Norfolk origins, this portrait was commissioned by the City of Norwich. It is considered the most faithful likeness of him. Nonetheless, it is interesting to note that there appears to be no visible trace of damage to Nelson’s right eye, lost during a successful attack on Corsica in 1793. The loss of his right arm (at Santa Cruz, Tenerife in 1797) is also hidden. Nelson died in 1805 while defeating the combined French and Spanish fleets in perhaps his greatest engagement - the Battle of Trafalgar.