This is probably based on ‘Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson (1758–1805), 1st Viscount Nelson’ (BHC2887), the second of many replica portraits of Nelson made by Abbott (after an original finished one), and all based on the only oil study of him that the artist made from life. That was done after July 1797, while Nelson was painfully recovering from the loss of his right arm, and staying with his old commander Captain William Locker, by this time Lieutenant-Governor of the Royal Hospital for Seamen at Greenwich. Nelson gave Abbott two sittings there and the resulting oil study, known as the 'Kilgraston sketch' from its later ownership by Francis Grant of Kilgraston, is now in the British portraits collection at Compton Verney, Warwickshire. Locker is reported to have based up to about 40 subsequent versions on it.
Bought by Huson Morris in about 1830, this version was engraved by Robert Graves in 1847 and remained in the Morris family until 1941, during the Second World War, when they sold it in order to make a contribution to the war effort at sea, having publicly stated their view that Nelson would have approved. It was bought for the Museum by the National Art Collections Fund, the proceeds (£1,000) going to the Board of Admiralty with whom it constituted the origin and nucleus of the Nelson Fund, formed to help protect allied shipping. Thus the sale of the portrait in 1941 was symbolically perceived as an instance of Nelson’s continuing potency in Britain’s protection at sea.
Where to see this painting?
National Maritime Museum
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