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Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington

1 portrait of Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington

by Robert Home
oil on canvas, 1804
29 1/2 in. x 24 1/2 in. (749 mm x 622 mm)
Transferred from Tate Gallery, 1957
Primary Collection
NPG 1471

Sitterback to top

Artistback to top

  • Robert Home (1752-1834), Portrait painter. Artist or producer associated with 18 portraits, Sitter in 1 portrait.

This portraitback to top

This early portrait of the future Duke of Wellington was painted in 1804 while he was serving in India. He is depicted in his major-general's uniform, his glorious victories all still ahead of him. He is not shown wearing the Order of the Bath though he had been awarded it in August 1804. It did not arrive from England until March 1805 and was said to have been pinned on him by a friend as he slept. The novelist Maria Edgeworth described him at this time as 'handsome, very brown … (with) a hooked nose'. Robert Home painted fourteen portraits of Wellington between 1804 and 1806 including one for his commanding admiral and one for the East India Company.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Audio Guide
  • Bayly, Christopher, The Raj: India and the British 1600-1947, 1990 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 19 October 1990 - 17 March 1991), p. 163
  • Cooper, John, Great Britons: The Great Debate, 2002, p. 94 Read entry

    This painting depicts Wellington as the victorious Commander in India, before his return in 1805. Wellington's understated patrician style contrasted with Nelson's pushiness. They met once: after initial suspicion, Wellington approved of Nelson's wise appreciation of the international situation.

  • Hart-Davis, Adam, Chain Reactions, 2000, p. 110
  • Holmes, Richard; Crane, David; Woof, Robert; Hebron, Stephen, Romantics and Revolutionaries: Regency portraits from the National Portrait Gallery, 2002, p. 19
  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 650
  • Various contributors, National Portrait Gallery: A Portrait of Britain, 2014, p. 119 Read entry

    One of Britain’s most iconic military leaders, the Duke of Wellington was hailed as the man who finally achieved the ‘peace of nations’ after leading the defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. This portrait by Robert Home (1752– 1834) shows Wellington early in his career, when he was a major-general in India. After his return to Britain in 1805, he rose to prominence as a general during the Peninsular Campaign of the Napoleonic Wars (1809–14), leading the allied forces to victory at the Battle of Vitoria (1813) and finally at Waterloo. He was celebrated for his defensive style of warfare and as a battle strategist; and, although a stern disciplinarian, he was dedicated to the well-being of his troops.

    Wellington entered Parliament in 1818 and served twice as prime minister, between 1828 and 1830 and again in 1834. A staunch Tory, he was nicknamed ‘the Iron Duke’ for his firm opposition to the Great Reform Act (1832), which was the first step toward full enfranchisement. He was a trusted adviser to Queen Victoria and was adopted as the nation’s ‘elder statesman’. Wellington was one of only a handful of British subjects to receive a state funeral during this period.

  • Walker, Richard, Regency Portraits, 1985, p. 525
  • Woof, Robert; Hebron, Stephen, Romantic Icons, 1999, p. 55

Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top

Events of 1804back to top

Current affairs

William Pitt returns to office and forms a second coalition administration, retaining many of those who had served under his predecessor Henry Addington but specifically excluding his arch rival Charles James Fox .

Art and science

William Blake starts writing Jerusalem. One of his most ambitious allegorical poems, it took nearly eight years to complete.
Amidst infighting about submissions to the annual exhibition, attempts are made to unseat painter Benjamin West as President of the Royal Academy and elect architect James Wyatt instead.


Napoleon declares himself Emperor of France and is crowned as Napoleon I by Pope Pius VII in Paris.
Haiti achieves independence led by Toussaint L'Ouverture, the patriot and martyr who had seized control from the French in 1801. He becomes a symbolic figure of freedom for the British anti-slavery movement.

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