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Napoleon Bonaparte on Board the 'Bellerophon' in Plymouth Sound

Fine art

Object details:

Object ID BHC2876
Description A full-length portrait slightly facing left, of Napoleon in the uniform of the Chasseurs. He stands at the gangway of the 'Bellerophon', 74 guns, his right elbow leaning on the bulwarks. In 1815, Napoleon surrendered to Captain Frederick Maitland of the 'Bellerophon' which brought him to England and he was detained on board in Plymouth Sound during July while his fate was decided. He usually appeared at about 6.00 pm for the benefit of the numerous boats loaded with sightseers, which enabled Eastlake to make rapid sketches from life for the portrait. Behind Napoleon to the right, head turned away to the left and partly bald, stands Général Comte Bertrand. Behind him to the left is the head and shoulders, full face, of Captain Piontowski wearing the uniform of the Polish Guard, formerly part of Napoleon's personal troops. He subsequently wished to remain one of Napoleon's body servants but this was refused and he was landed at Plymouth. A British marine in profile to the left stands in front of Bertrand and to the right of Napoleon, while below him in a blue-and-white striped pullover is a sailor looking up at him. Napoleon dominates the picture as he looks beyond the viewer in the direction of the onlookers. His right elbow leans immediately below a Union flag underscoring British victory and his defeat. The mainmast of the ship looms large behind him to the left, with rigging beyond. The sailor looking up at him from the gang-way accentuates the vertical thrust of the image, emphasised too by the height of the marine's rifle to the right. The sailor holds a rope in his right hand, similar to the rope draped over the side of the ship to the right. Both these humble players in the scene serve as Napoleon's guard but in positions also indicating respect to the fallen hero. A hammock with a sailor's watch number is lashed inboard against the side of the ship. The painting was enormously popular when it was exhibited at No.236 Piccadilly in 1815, and although based on the eyewitness account of Eastlake when a young man, the end result is heavily contrived. Several certificates were issued to testify to the true resemblance of the painting to Napoleon from which Charles Turner created a well-known mezzotint from another version of it, only showing Napoleon. The exhibition and the print both made Eastlake's name and earned him a considerable sum.
Date made 1815

Artist/Maker Eastlake, Charles Lock
Credit National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London. Caird Fund
Materials oil on canvas
Measurements Painting: 2591 x 1790 mm; Frame: 2835 mm x 2046 mm x 120 mm; Overall: 167 kg
  • Napoleon Bonaparte on Board the 'Bellerophon' in Plymouth Sound (BHC2876)
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