Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington ('The Duke of Wellington Surveying the Field of Waterloo')

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington ('The Duke of Wellington Surveying the Field of Waterloo')

by Benjamin Robert Haydon
oil on canvas, 1839
30 in. x 25 in. (762 mm x 635 mm)
Transferred from National Gallery, 1994
Primary Collection
NPG 6265

On display in Room 10 on Floor 3 at the National Portrait Gallery

Sitterback to top

Artistback to top

  • Benjamin Robert Haydon (1786-1846), History painter and diarist. Artist or producer associated with 34 portraits, Sitter in 10 portraits.

This portraitback to top

The subject, 'Wellington musing on the Field of Waterloo' was conceived by the painter Haydon as a companion to his 'Napoleon musing at St Helena'. In a portrait full of pathos, the ageing hero, wearing civilian clothes, is shown looking out over the scene of his greatest triumph at Waterloo, almost fifteen years after the event. The Duke's dislike of sitting for his portrait, at least latterly, was well-known. He was even reluctant to lend Haydon the helmet and sword which appear in the foreground. After finally persuading Wellington to pose twice in 1839, the artist subsequently painted twenty-five variants of the portrait, demonstrating an almost obsessive interest in the Duke.

Related worksback to top

  • NPG 6266: Napoléon Bonaparte ('Napoléon on St Helena') (companion portrait)

Linked publicationsback to top

Placesback to top

  • Place portrayed: Belgium (Waterloo, Belgium)

Events of 1839back to top

Current affairs

The Bedchamber crisis strains relations between the government and the monarchy, after Queen Victoria refuses to dismiss her Whig-appointed ladies of the bedchamber at the request of the new, Conservative Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel. Peel resigns and Melbourne returns as Prime Minister.
The Grand National is first held at the Aintree race course, won by the horse Lottery, and the first Henley Royal Regatta, the rowing event, is held on the Thames.

Art and science

The French and British scientists Louis Daguerre and William Henry Fox Talbot separately publicise their experiments with the new form of photography.
The prolific journalist Harriet Martineau publishes her three decker novel Deerbrook, the story of middle class country life.


The first Opium War with China is sparked after the British government refuses to try six British soldiers accused of killing a Chinese man protecting a temple from looters. Relations were strained as Britain had promoted the drug opium in China to boost trade. Winning the war, Britain secured vital trading rights.
African captives aboard the Spanish ship La Amistad revolt, resulting in a highly publicised court case.

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