Portrait of John Windham Dalling, three-quarter-length, as a midshipman, before a stormy landscape oil on canvas 128 x 103cm (50 3/8 x 40 9/16in).
PROVENANCE: By descent to the present owner through the Windham, Dalling, and Meade families at Earsham Hall, Bungay, Suffolk, from the 18th and early 19th centuries.
The subject of this portrait is the second of two siblings who, rather unusually, bore the same name: John Windham Dalling senior died aged seventeen in 1786 in India. His parents subsequently named another son John Windham (1789-1853), and it is this boy who is the subject of Harlow's portrait.
Dalling, who entered the Navy as a First Class Volunteer, may, in fact, have had Nelson to thank for his opportunity to go to sea since the Admiral was stationed in Jamaica when Dalling's father, General Sir John Dalling, 1st Baronet, was Governor of the island. It is therefore perfectly possible that Sir John might well have approached Nelson at a later date seeking a preferment for his son but whether this is true or not, young Dalling joined HMS Defence in November 1803 and began his career under Captain George Hope. Present at Trafalgar, by which time he had been made Midshipman, he transferred into the frigate Amphion in December 1805 and was sent to the Mediterranean where he remained for several years. During that time, he assisted with the landing of the troops heading for their great victory at Maida, and was present at the capture of the town of Reggio as well as the important fortress of Cotrone. By 1809 Amphion was in the Adriatic and Dalling took part in various so-called 'Boat Actions', most notably the covert expedition into the port of Cortellazzo on 28th August (1809) when 6 enemy gunboats and 7 fully-laden merchantmen were either captured or destroyed. After promotion to Lieutenant in October 1810, he was posted into HMS Ville de Paris which was part of the blockading force stationed off Toulon. Thereafter sent to the Cape of Good Hope, he was given his first command the sloop Nimrod in 1817 and, later, the sloop Raleigh in 1826. Appointed Captain in 1828, his final command was the corvette Daphne in the Mediterranean from 1838-42, from which date he was placed on half-pay and retired from the sea. In 1844 he married Frances Anne, eldest daughter of Colonel Fanshawe, CB, Royal Engineers, and received the Naval General Service medal with three clasps when it was issued in 1848. He died at his brother's home, Earsham Hall, in 1853 and was buried in the local churchyard.
Harlow has portrayed John Dalling as an assured young man, every bit the naval hero. The romantic backdrop of a stormy sky and rugged coastline contrasts with Dalling's confident stance. Despite his extreme youth, he commands our respect: this, after all, is the young man who played a part in one of the greatest events in British maritime history.