Fine art, Oil paintings, Maritime Art Greenwich

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England's Pride and Glory

Fine art

Object connections:

Collection Fine art, Oil paintings, Maritime Art Greenwich
Gallery locationMaritime London Gallery (Floor plans)
PeopleDepiction: Nelson, Horatio

Object details:

Object ID BHC1811
Description This picture-within-a-picture shows a naval cadet of about 1890 looking at what is perhaps the most famous image of Nelson, painted by Lemuel Abbott (see BHC2889) in the Naval Gallery in the Painted Hall of Greenwich Hospital, to which it was presented in 1849. It remained on display there until 1936, when the Gallery collection as a whole was transferred to the care of the new National Maritime Museum. Nelson was regarded as the greatest British naval hero and so the narrative of the painting indicates that he is perceived as the real subject of the picture, conveying a patriotic message to the boy and the viewer. The young woman with her arm on the boy's shoulder, possibly his mother, indicates what is expected of him as a young naval cadet through the example of Nelson. Nelson, through his likeness, spurs on subsequent generations to future deeds of greatness. These aspirations appear to be accepted by the woman, child and viewer, which is appropriate to the period in which this painting was produced. It was an era in which notions of empire and patriotism were regarded as paramount, and one in which Britain's longstanding dominance at sea was being gradually challenged by the rise of other naval powers. The other two paintings in the picture are also of Nelsonic subjects and still in the care of the National Maritime Museum as part of the Greenwich Hospital collection. The large image to the left is the 'Victory of the Nile, 1 August 1798', by George Arnald (BHC0509), and the other is 'Nelson in Conflict with a Spanish Launch, July 1797', by Richard Westall (BHC2908). The latter, was one of a group by Westall and Benjamin West engraved in the first major biography of Nelson by Clarke and McArthur in 1809. All these were presented (with the Abbott portrait) to the Hospital in 1849. Since all three paintings depicted demonstrate the suffering and bloodshed associated with warfare, and Nelson's heroism and fatal wounding at the Battle of Trafalgar, it is difficult for the modern viewer to approach Davidson's picture without a hint of irony. Consequently it is open to different readings.
Date made 1894

Artist/Maker Davidson, Thomas
Credit National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Caird Collection
Materials oil on canvas
Measurements Overall: 24 kg; Painting: 918 mm x 711 mm; Frame: 1197 mm x 991 mm x 110 mm
  • England's Pride and Glory (BHC1811)
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