The Death of Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar & Wellington and Blucher Meeting After the Battle of Waterloo (1861)
DANIEL MACLISE (1806-1870)
A pair of original engravings by Chas. W. Sharpe. Printed by Art Union of London 1878
In handmade frames
The dimensions of these two pieces are: NELSON – 134cm x 53.5cm; WELLINGTON – 139cm x 58cm
A pair of original engravings from Daniel Maclise’s famous paintings commissioned to decorate the brand-new Houses of Parliament. Published in 1878, they were together, throughout the Empire, amongst the most widely prized possessions of the 19thcentury.
The Death of Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar
Few subjects could have been better calculated to stir patriotic pride. Even half a century after his death most British people felt profoundly indebted to Admiral Horatio Nelson. Had it not been for his fleet’s famous victory over the numerically superior French and Spanish forces at Trafalgar on October 21, 1805, Britannia could never have ruled the waves; and Britons might well have been slaves.
Nelson’s contemporaries saw him as a secular Christ, a sacrificial hero who had died to save his people from the yoke of Napoleonic conquest. Maclise placed his pale and stricken hero at the centre of the scene of battle, surrounding him with the grieving figures of his fellow officers and men. This group recalls traditional depictions of the Lamentation over the dead Christ. The ship’s first lieutenant, Thomas Hardy, a seadog version of the Madonna, cradles Nelson in his arms with maternal tenderness. In the background, where battle rages, shattered masts faintly recall the crosses of the Crucifixion: another subliminal suggestion that the scene of the battle is also a sort of Golgotha. Small wonder that the reviewer for the Art Journal of 1866 interpreted the picture as half battle painting, half altarpiece, and thought he saw the promise of transcendence in the little window of blue sky above Nelson’s head.
Wellington and Blucher Meeting After the Battle of Waterloo
This picture depicts the Duke of Wellington and General Blücher at the end of the Battle of Waterloo on 18th June 1815. They are shown shaking hands outside the ruins of Napoleon’s headquarters at the inn ‘La Belle Alliance’. Whilst celebrating a British victory, the grand composition presents the aftermath of the battle with dead and wounded figures dominating the foreground. James Dafforne, writing after Maclise’s death in 1872, described it as ‘at once the most faithful and the most modest of all the battle-subjects we have ever seen’, noting how the artist dealt ‘tenderly’ with the challenge of depicting the defeated troops of Napoleon to create a memorial of a great victory that was ‘without the flush of conquest’.