Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Molti Ritratti: Duke of Wellington

Some of my Molti Ritratti (many portraits) posts dealt with subjects who lived before the invention of photography. Others lived in the photographic era and had comparatively few portrait paintings made of them. Then there is the interesting situation where most of the subject's life was lived before photography, yet an image or two might exist. Such was the case for Andrew Jackson (1767-1845), subject of this post. The same is true for Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington (1769-1852), a near contemporary of Jackson.

The two led lives that mirrored each other in some important respects, though Jackson was born into humble circumstances of immigrant parents from Ireland, whereas Wellesley (his father spelled the family name "Wesley") was of the Anglo-Irish aristocracy. Both men became generals and fought important battles (New Orleans for Jackson and Waterloo for Wellington). Both became the political leader of their country (Jackson as President, Wellington as Prime Minister). And both sat to a number of portraits.

Below are images of Wellington.

This is a daguerreotype taken in 1844, if the information I found on the Web is correct. Wellington would have been about age 75.

This portrait is by John Jackson, a painter who was well known in his day, but is obscure enough that I hadn't heard of him before. The painting was probably made not many years before Jackson's death in1831.

These portraits were painted by George Hayter, yet another painter new to me. Hayter also painted Queen Victoria and other notables. The upper painting was made in 1839. I have no date for the lower one, but from Wellington's appearance it might have been done near the time of the Jackson work.

Here is one of the better-known Wellington portraits. It is by Francisco Goya, painted in 1812 as Wellington was nearing his final defeat of French forces in Spain.

The final three portraits are by Sir Thomas Lawrence, the leading English portraitist of the early 19th century. The one at the top is the best-known, and usually used when a depiction of Wellington is needed. It was painted around 1815-16, not long after Waterloo. The middle painting was commissioned in 1820 and probably completed within a year or two of that date. It looks suspiciously like it was to some degree a copy of the earlier painting (for instance, note the similarity of the nose shadows). I have no date for the final portrait, though from Wellington's appearance it was made after 1820 and before Lawrence's death in 1830. It strikes me as inferior to the first two.

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