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Horatia Nelson, 1801-81

Oil paintings

Object connections:

Collection Oil paintings, Fine art
ExhibitionsSeduction and Celebrity: The Spectacular Life of Emma Hamilton
User collections Strike a pose by lucinda
Gallery locationNot on display
PeopleDepiction: Nelson, Horatia

Object details:

Object ID BHC2886
Description (Updated , November 2014) A full-length portrait of Nelson's daughter, full-face, wearing a white dress, red pumps and a miniature of her father round her neck. She is dancing in a rocky foreground with an imaginary landscape in the distance, a tambourine held high in her left hand and her gaze directly engaging the viewer. The coastal scene with mountains and smoke from a volcano on the right, may be intended to represent the Bay of Naples by an artist who had never visited it. It is possible that the portrait was commissioned by Horatia’s mother, Emma, Lady Hamilton, since the pose relates to a 1792 portrait of her by the French painter, Elisabeth-Louise Vigée Le Brun (now in the Lady Lever Art Gallery, Birkenhead). This shows Emma as a Bacchante, in which she also dances holding a tambourine, with the smoke from Mount Vesuvius rising in the background. Given Lady Hamilton's circumstances by around 1815, however (it was the year she died in poverty in Calais), it is perhaps more probable it was done after Horata returned from there to the care of Nelson's family in England. Horatia was conceived before Nelson, Emma, and her husband Sir William Hamilton, left Naples in 1800, and born in secret in January 1801. She barely knew Nelson, since he was rarely in England after 1802 and she only lived with Emma after Sir William Hamilton's death in 1803. But while she learnt she was Nelson's daughter she never recognized (or admitted) that Emma was her mother, since the latter never revealed this. After Emma's death in Calais in 1815 Horatia returned to the care of the family of Nelson's prosperously married youngest sister, Catherine Matcham until March 1817. She then moved to Burnham Market, Norfolk, to live with her widowed uncle Thomas Bolton and three of his daughters (Nelson's nieces by his sister Susannah Bolton). All evidence suggests she became a lively and well adjusted young woman, both reasonably educated and well read: Emma, for example, ensured she had an early knowledge of French, Italian and German. After a brief engagement to the curate at Burnham Westgate, which was broken off, in 1819 she met his replacement, the Revd Philip Ward (1795-1859): they married at Burnham Westgate church on 19 February 1822. He subsequently became vicar of Tenterden, Kent, and adopted the family name of Nelson-Ward (apparently informally since their eldest son, Horatio, did it by deed-poll in 1881). It was a successful marriage, producing ten children between December 1822 and 1836: four died in infancy but the rest did well in (or marrying into) the church, the law and the army, and the second son was a Naval surgeon. After her husband's death, Horatia moved to Pinner, Middlesex, near her third son, Nelson, a lawyer. She died on 6 March 1881, age 80, and was buried there. This painting is part of the Nelson-Ward Collection, presented to the Museum by Horatia's grandson the Revd Hugh Nelson-Ward in 1946.
Date made circa 1815

Artist/Maker British School, 19th century
Credit National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Nelson-Ward Collection
Materials oil on canvas
Measurements Painting: 1955 mm x 1270 mm; Frame: 2235 mm x 1440 mm x 90 mm
  • Horatia Nelson, 1801-81 (BHC2886)
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