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Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington

Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, by William Salter, 1839 -NPG 3766 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Regency Portraits Catalogue

Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington

by William Salter
24 in. x 20 in. (610 mm x 507 mm)
NPG 3766

This portraitback to top

The NPG oil sketch, painted on a slightly larger canvas than the others, is one of a collection of studies made by Salter for his large picture, 'The Waterloo Banquet at Apsley House 1836', now at Stratfield Saye House. The Duke gave sittings to Salter (among other artists) at Walmer Castle in 1839 but when Lord Sandys, on behalf of Salter (or possibly John Lucas), asked for a few hours' sitting at Stratfield Saye to complete the job, he was answered by a diatribe from the Duke whose aversion to artists was well known:

S.S. Dec 6 1839/My dear Lord Sandys/I am convinced that there is no Man existing or that ever lived in this Country who has sacrificed his time, his leisure, his amusements, the best hours of his days, to the Artists to the same degree that I have. I have sat for no less than six Pictures since the Prorogation of Part. My House at W.C. [Walmer Castle] was full of Artists. I have had three there at a time, each taking up one, two, three hours of the best of the day & I am now called upon to receive another here in the Winter, and to devote to him possibly the only Hour of Daylight that there may be in the 24 hours. Is this fair? Why should not these gentlemen do as their predecessors have? Why not copy from each other? I answer, their confounded vanity prevents it. I must sacrifice my time in order to satisfy their vanity! that each may say - This is an original Picture of the D of Wellington. I attended him at S. Saye to paint it. A l'impossible personne n'est tenue. I cannot do what is required of me Yrs Wn
(MS letter at Stratfield Saye House, kindly shown to me by the archivist, Mrs Joan Wilson).

Larger variants of NPG 3766, whole-length standing under an arch with plumed hat in his right hand, are at Stratfield Saye House, the National Maritime Museum Greenwich, and at Thonock Hall Lincolnshire, engraved by W. Greatbach; a head and shoulders version is in Liverpool Town Hall and a copy, attributed to Lonsdale, is in the RAMC Millbank.

The portraits [NPG 3689-NPG 3769] are oil studies for a large picture (about 6ft x 11ft), 'The Waterloo Banquet', now hanging at Stratfield Saye House. The banquet was held regularly at Apsley House on the anniversary of Waterloo, 18 June 1815, William Salter's picture representing the occasion in 1836, though it may have been conceived earlier. Two of the sitters, Bathurst and Manners, died in 1834 and 1835 and their portraits appear to have been painted from life, but the only banquet when both William IV and William II of Holland were present was in 1836 (The Times, 20 June 1836, 4e). The finished work, far more meticulously painted than the rather rough oil studies, was completed in 1840 and exhibited in June 1841 at 20 Threadneedle Street, the offices of Alderman Moon who published Greatbach's engraving of the picture. Neither Moon nor Salter were able to find a buyer for the picture until it was bought in 1852 by a friend of Salter's, Edward Mackenzie, who had just acquired a large house in the country, Fawley Court, Henley-on-Thames. It hung there until bequeathed to the 6th Duke of Wellington by his grandson Major W. R. D. Mackenzie.
The NPG oil studies are probably ad vivum sketches painted coarsely but with considerable verve and with close but not infallible attention to the details of uniform and orders. Several of them, if not all, were worked up into finished portraits for the individual subjects, the Mackenzie family tradition being that two sets were painted.

According to what I have been told by my Father and my Grandfather, Salter certainly painted two sets of these portraits; I do not know who commissioned one set, but have an idea that Salter tried to sell them to the subjects. Also according to family tradition, Salter who was a friend of my great-grandfather, tried unsuccessfully to sell the Banquet picture and another set of portraits, and these were finally bought by my great-grandfather out of friendship to Salter, and possibly because he had just acquired a house large enough to house them.
(Letter of 3 July 1952 from Alexander Mackenzie of Inverness in NPG archive.)

A few of Salter's improved sketches are known to be still in the sitters' family collections or elsewhere (Askew, Clifton, Dick, Dickson, Hunter-Blair, Richmond and Lennox, Rooke, Rowan and Wellington); and a few more, implying completion, were engraved by either Cochran or Greatbach (Bowater, Egerton, Hunter-Blair, Lambert, Lygon, Richmond and Lennox, Sleigh, Lord Edward Somerset, Townshend, Wellington and Wyndham). The NPG set, after its acquisition by Edward Mackenzie, hung on the staircase at Fawley Court until the house was requisitioned for military purposes in the Second World War. They were then boxed in neatly fitting wooden cabinets made by the Office of Works and finally came to the NPG in 1950.

Referenceback to top

Dalton 1890, 1904
Charles Dalton, The Waterloo Roll Call, 1890 and 2nd edn. 1904.

Dawnay & Tamplin 1971
Major N. P. Dawnay & Major J. M. A. Tamplin, 'The Waterloo Banquet at Apsley House 1836, by William Salter' in Journal of Society for Army Historical Research, XLIX, 1971, pp 63-76 illustrated with several of the studies and a colour reproduction of the whole picture as frontispiece.

Longford 1983
Elizabeth Longford, 'Apsley House and the Battle of the Waterloo Banquets' in The V&A Album 2, 1983, pp 22-7.

The Athenaeum, 1841, p 342 notices the exhibition at Mr Moon's house in Threadneedle Street, 18 June 1841.

Physical descriptionback to top

Three-quarter-length standing to left, arms folded, field marshal's uniform, Golden Fleece, Waterloo Medal, Star of KG, Ribbon of the Bath; grey hair, eyebrows and whiskers, large blue eyes, serious expression; column to left, brown curtain in right background.

Provenanceback to top

The artist until bought, together with the finished painting, by Edward Mackenzie in 1852 'out of friendship' for Salter; bequeathed by his son William Dalziel Mackenzie to the NPG in 1929 (though the bequest did not take effect till 1950).

Reproductionsback to top

(Of the variant standing under an arch)
Line engraving by W. Greatbach published by Welch and Gwynne.

This extended catalogue entry is from the out-of-print National Portrait Gallery collection catalogue: Richard Walker, Regency Portraits, National Portrait Gallery, 1985, 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.

View all known portraits for Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington


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