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The Siege of Gibraltar, 1782

1 portrait of Major Joseph Eyre

Mid-Georgian Portraits Catalogue

The Siege of Gibraltar, 1782

by George Carter
1784
16 1/2 in. x 22 in. (419 mm x 559 mm)
NPG 1752

This portraitback to top

NPG 1752 is a sketch for the large painting in the National Army Museum (1996-07-107), [1] which is signed and inscribed: Gibraltar/Blockaded June 21.1779/Firing Began Apl 12.1781/Floating Batteries Sepr 13.82/This scene Sepr 14 at Sunrise/G. Carter pinx. 1784. Gibraltar had been besieged by the French and Spanish since 1779. In 1782 ten Spanish ‘floating batteries’ were sent to bombard the island’s defences from close range; they began firing on 13 September, but through the following night were all destroyed by General Eliott’s shore-based guns. [2] The siege was not finally lifted until February 1783, but the action of 13-14 September 1782 had ensured ultimate British success. After the recent defeat of British troops in America, Eliott’s firm resolve caught the public imagination and the destruction of the Spanish batteries was depicted by many artists, from Lt. G. F. Koehler of the Royal Engineers, whose drawing of Gen. Eliott directing fire on the Spanish Batteries was soon engraved, [3] to Copley, whose splendid canvas, completed in 1791, was commissioned by the City of London and now hangs in the Guildhall Art Gallery (43). [4]
Copley had accepted the commission on 18 March 1783 (see Heathfield NPG 170), [5] but on 19 March 1783 Carter innocently offered his own candidacy to the Corporation. He claimed to have been working on the subject since the event, to have finished it a month before, and to have engaged to have it engraved; he added that he had consulted state papers and that Sir Roger Curtis, whose portrait was included (but does not appear in Carter’s final picture), had superintended the composition. Despite such claims, Carter was still working on his picture in 1784; on 16 August General George Eliott in Gibraltar told his London agent Stephen Fuller that ‘Mr Carter is here, has taken the Hanoverian chiefs. I sat today, he is very quick, and succeeds in the likenesses I have seen’; and on 9 October he wrote that ‘Mr Carter the artist returns by the same ship. He has been very diligent and taken many good likenesses, and several agreeable views of the town and its environs which I heartily wish may reward him for his labours’. [6]
None of the figures in NPG 1752 is clear enough to count as a portrait, although each is named in a numbered key painted in grisaille, presumably by Carter, now in the National Army Museum. They are listed below in alphabetical order with their numbers in the key: [7]
BOYD, Lt.Gen. Robert (1710-94), key 5, Lt. Governor and Col. 39th Ft.; KB 1785
COCHRANE, Col. Gavin, key 9, 58th Ft.
CRAIG, Col. Peter, key 15, 56th Ft.
DACHENHAUSEN, Lt.Col. Gustav Friedrich von, key 20, Reden’s Hanoverian Regt.
DE LA MOTTE, Maj.Gen. August, key 4, officer commanding the Hanoverian Regts.
EYRE, Maj. Joseph, RA, key 22
GLEDSTONE [GLEDSTANES], Col. George, key 18, 72nd Ft.
GREEN, Maj.Gen. William (1725-1811), key 11, Chief Engineer
GROVE [GROVES], Maj. George, key 17, RA (wounded on the night of 13 September)
HEATHFIELD, George Augustus Eliott, 1st Baron (1717-90), key 8, then Gen. Eliott, Governor of Gibraltar; see Heathfield NPG 170 & 6079
HELLETT [KELLETT], Col. William, key 3, 39th Ft.
HOLLOWAY, Gen. Sir (1749-1827), key 12, then Lt. ADC to Maj.Green
HUGO, Col. Ernst August von (d. 1794), key 2, Hardenberg’s Hanoverian Regt.
LEWIS, Maj.Gen. George (fl.1776-1813), key 23, then Lt.Col. RA
LLOYD, Gen. Vaughan (1736-1817), key 16, then Maj. RA
MACKENZIE, Col. George, key 24, 73rd (Highland) Ft.
MACKINTOSH, Lt.Col. William, key 19, 97th Ft.
MARTIN, Maj. Philip, RA, key 21
PHIPPS, Lt.Col. John, RE, key 14 [?Maj.-Gen. Edmund Phipps, 1760-1837, ADC to the Governor of Gibraltar 1782]
PICTON, Maj.Gen. William, key 10, 12th Ft. [?Maj.-Gen. John Picton, d c.1813]
SCHREPPERGILL [SCHLIPPEGILL, SCHLEPERGRELL], Lt.-Col. von, key 1, De La Motte’s Hanoverian Regt.
TRIGGE, Col. Thomas, key 13, 12th Ft.
VALLOTON [VALLOTTON], Maj. Charles, key 7, ADC to the Governor, 56th Ft.
WILSON, Capt. William, key 6, ADC to Lt.Gen. Boyd, 39th Ft.
Carter’s composition is largely arranged by rank, the lesser officers to the right and staff officers attended by their ADCs nearer the front (Copley subsequently retained the foreground Scot and the seated Major Lewis). [8] Twelve of Carter’s officers appear in the Copley composition and five in John Trumbull’s The Sortie made by the Garrison of Gibraltar, 26 November 1781 (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York). [9]

Footnotesback to top

1) Illus. J. D. Prown, John Singleton Copley, 1966, II, pl.491 (but described as NPG 1752); NACF Review 1996, p 120. See J. Egerton, National Gallery Catalogues, The British School, 1998, pp 230, 233n16; exhibited by Carter in Pall Mall, London, 1785; bought between 1785 and 1795 the 6th Lord Balcarres, whose younger brother, Maj. Colin Lindsay of the 73rd Highlanders, was present at the siege (and appeared in Copley’s painting); Crawford sale, Christie’s, 11 October 1946, lot 43, bought Barnard, by whom offered to the NPG in 1957.
2) As described, for example, by J. Drinkwater, History of the Siege of Gibraltar 1779-83, 1846, ed., pp 134-40.
3) Illus. J. D. Prown, John Singleton Copley, 1966, II, pl.494; J. Egerton, National Gallery Catalogues, The British School, 1998, p 230. NPG 1752 was previously attributed to G. F. Koehler.
4) See J. Egerton, National Gallery Catalogues, The British School, 1998, pp 230, 233nn13,15.
5) J. D. Prown, John Singleton Copley, 1966, II, pp 311-12.
6) National Maritime Museum, Heathfield MSS 9217, ff.28, 30 (quoted by J. D. Prown, John Singleton Copley, 1966, II, p 312n1).
7) From E. B. Neff, John Singleton Copley in England, exhibition catalogue, Washington, Houston, 1995, p 158, and J. Spilsbury, Journal of the Siege of Gibraltar, 1908 (pub. by the Gibraltar Garrison Library), pp 125-38, Doubtful Portraits II, ‘Approximate List of Officers serving at Gibraltar during the Siege’.
8) J. D. Prown, John Singleton Copley, 1966, II, p 328.
9) Nos.1, 2, 3, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, 13, 15, 20, 23 and 24 in the Copley, and nos.7, 8, 12, 13 and 24 in the Trumbull.

Referenceback to top

Prown 1966
J. D. Prown, John Singleton Copley, 1966, II, pp 312n, 325, 328-29.

Provenanceback to top

O. H. Nicolls in 1906; Alfred Jones of Bath, by whom presented 1915.

Exhibitionsback to top

Military Exhibition, London, 1901 (6) lent Maj.-Gen. O. H. Nicolls of Bognor Regis;1 1776, National Maritime Museum, 1976 (560).

1 The exhibition label remains on the stretcher.


This extended catalogue entry is from the out-of-print National Portrait Gallery collection catalogue: John Ingamells, National Portrait Gallery: Mid-Georgian Portraits 1760-1790, National Portrait Gallery, 2004, and is as published then. For the most up-to-date details on individual Collection works, we recommend reading the information provided in the Search the Collection results on this website in parallel with this text.