A full length portrait to right in admiral’s full dress uniform and wearing the ribbon and star of the Bath. His right hand is on an anchor fluke and his left clenched across his chest. His hair is probably his own. In the right background the artist has shown a scene from the battle of the Saints. The primary version of the portrait was painted for the Prince of Wales and exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1789, and is now in the Royal Collection. This replica version was probably sold in auction in 1821 to George III, having previously belonged to Reynolds’ niece Lady Thomond. It may be the portrait that was in Reynolds’ studio at his death.
Although Rodney served almost continuously from 1732 until he was promoted admiral in 1759, it is only after that time that he had opportunities to distinguish himself. In the year of his promotion he commanded a squadron which destroyed the invasion barges at Le Havre. In 1761 he went to the West Indies as Commander-in-Chief of the Leeward Islands where he succeeded in taking Martinique, St Lucia, Grenada and St Vincent from the French. During the peaceful years of 1765–1770 Rodney was Governor of Greenwich Hospital. In 1779 he was offered the Leeward Islands station again and ordered to relieve Gibraltar on the way. In January 1780, when the fleet had almost reached Gibraltar, it intercepted a Spanish Squadron of nine ships. During this action 22 ships of the line were blown up in action and seven were captured. Gibraltar was relieved and Rodney proceeded to the West Indies with four ships of the line. For the next two years, apart from a brief respite in England for reasons of health, Rodney conducted the war against the powerful French forces until he won the great victory of the Saints which ended the French interest in the West Indies.
Where to see this painting?
National Maritime Museum
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