Robert Dodd (British, 1748-1815) The Battle of Trafalgar ? the two British columns going into action
Lot 85
Robert Dodd (British, 1748-1815) The Battle of Trafalgar – the two British columns going into action; Admiral Dumanoir's surviving French Squadron escaping the carnage each 63.5 x 152.4cm. (25 x 60in.), (2).
Sold for £270,650 (US$ 423,513) inc. premium

Lot Details
Robert Dodd (British, 1748-1815) The Battle of Trafalgar ? the two British columns going into action
Robert Dodd (British, 1748-1815)
The Battle of Trafalgar – the two British columns going into action; Admiral Dumanoir's surviving French Squadron escaping the carnage
a pair, one signed 'R.Dodd' and dated 1805 (lower right), both oil on canvas
each 63.5 x 152.4cm. (25 x 60in.), (2).

Footnotes

  • Throughout the long history of war at sea, the battle of Trafalgar was certainly the most complete victory of the age of sail if not the most decisive naval engagement ever fought.

    After a lengthy and frustrating chase across the Atlantic Ocean and back, Lord Nelson finally confronted the Franco-Spanish fleet off Cape Trafalgar on the morning of 21st October 1805. Admiral Villeneuve, the French supreme commander, had managed to combine the Spanish fleet with his own to give him a formidable thirty-three ships-of- war against Nelson’s total of twenty-seven. To compensate for this numerical imbalance, Nelson had conceived his famously unconventional battle plan to break the enemy line in two places and as soon as the opposing fleets sighted each other on the fateful morning, the British ships formed up into their two pre-arranged columns.

    Nelson himself, as Vice-Admiral of the White, led the Weather Division of the fleet (i.e. the White Squadron) in H.M.S. “Victory” whilst Collingwood, as Vice-Admiral of the Blue, led the Leeward Division in his flagship “Royal Sovereign”. As the fleets closed for action, “Royal Sovereign” drew ahead and broke the enemy line just after noon, almost half-an-hour before “Victory” was able to do so. As this extremely unusual view from astern of the fleet shows only too clearly, both British columns were subjected to volley after volley of enemy fire before either of them could get into positions from where they could reply.

    The second painting in this remarkable pair of pictures shows the battle apparently in full spate but, in point of fact, nearly over. As with all the great naval engagements in that far-off age when warships were dependent upon the wind for their manoeuvrability, the battle of Trafalgar had been reduced to a smoke-shrouded mêlée in which every ship fought its own corner regardless of any overall strategy. Thus, although it may appear difficult to identify the precise moment Dodd has captured in this view, it is, in fact, the point at which the handful of surviving French ships, comprising Rear-Admiral Dumanoir's flagship, "Formidable", 80-guns, the "Neptune", also 80-guns, and three '74's, "Duguay-Trouin", “Mont-Blanc” and “Scipion”, saw their opportunity to slip away to the south-east and escape. Five such ships are clearly depicted, "Formidable" second in line, "Neptune" leading the column, and the other three astern of them. With regard to the original provenance of these paintings, a rather more unexpected inclusion is the diminutive topsail schooner H.M.S. “Pickle” on the right of the work; probably the smallest and yet fastest vessel participating in the battle, it was the ‘gallant little “Pickle”’ that Collingwood chose to take home the news of the victory and Nelson’s martyrdom. Landing at Falmouth early on 5th November, “Pickle’s” commander, Lieutenant John Lapenotiere, took a fast post-chaise to London and reached the Admiralty at 1.00am. the next morning after a breath-taking dash across the country. Given that these paintings are dated 1805, when virtually no other British naval officer who had been present at Trafalgar was back in England, it is intriguing to speculate whether it might have been Lieutenant John Lapenotiere who commissioned them in the immediate aftermath of his celebrity.

    It is believed that these paintings are the earliest depictions of the Battle of Trafalgar.
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