Thomas Luny (British, 1759-1837)  The battle of Trafalgar, 21st October 1805 – Nelson's flagship Victory and Téméraire in close action with the French Rédoubtable as the battle rages around them
Lot 104W
Thomas Luny
(British, 1759-1837)
The battle of Trafalgar, 21st October 1805 – Nelson's flagship Victory and Téméraire in close action with the French Rédoubtable as the battle rages around them
Sold for £164,500 (US$ 268,805) inc. premium

Lot Details
Thomas Luny (British, 1759-1837)  The battle of Trafalgar, 21st October 1805 – Nelson's flagship Victory and Téméraire in close action with the French Rédoubtable as the battle rages around them Thomas Luny (British, 1759-1837)  The battle of Trafalgar, 21st October 1805 – Nelson's flagship Victory and Téméraire in close action with the French Rédoubtable as the battle rages around them
Thomas Luny (British, 1759-1837)
The battle of Trafalgar, 21st October 1805 – Nelson's flagship Victory and Téméraire in close action with the French Rédoubtable as the battle rages around them
signed 'Luny' and dated 1822 (on driftwood lower left)
oil on canvas
86.3 x 129.5cm (34 x 51in).

Footnotes

  • Provenance
    Sale, Sotheby's London, 21st November 1979, lot 7
    with Richard Green Fine Paintings Ltd.
    J. W. Robertson Esq. (bought from the above, 1980)


    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 led the Weather Division in H.M.S. Victory whilst his second-in-command, Vice-Admiral Collingwood, spearheaded the Leeward Division in the 100-gun Royal Sovereign. As the fleets closed for action, Royal Sovereign drew ahead and broke the line first, but it was almost half-an-hour before Victory was able to do the same when she forced herself between Villeneuve's flagship Bucentaure and Captain Lucas in the Rédoubtable. Close behind Victory was Téméraire and, within minutes, the four ships became embroiled in a tremendous struggle during which the 74-gun Rédoubtable fought with great heroism against the two much larger British first rates. Victory pounded Rédoubtable relentlessly, inflicting appalling casualties amongst the men on her decks, whereas above the carnage, the French sharpshooters stationed in the fighting tops of the masts quietly waited in turn for their opportunities to pick off men on Victory's decks, one of whom would soon be Nelson himself.

    In this splendid rendering of the most famous sea battle in history, Luny has chosen to highlight the epic assault on Rédoubtable which, after she had endured the two most devastating broadside onslaughts of the day, was – in her captain's own words – "so riddled that she seems to be no more than a mass of wreckage." She is seen here in the very centre of the canvas, with the French tricolour still flying proudly from her stern jack as Victory pounds her port side and Téméraire does the same to starboard; it will not be long now before she is battered into submission and forced to strike her colours.

    Elsewhere, the colossal Spanish four-decker Santisima Trinidad ["Most Holy Trinity"] and the largest wooden warship ever built, can also be seen in close action (on the right) and it is everywhere clear that the outcome of the battle is, as yet, far from decided.

    Sadly there is no pedigree for this lot but Thomas Luny produced a number of paintings of Trafalgar, both at the time and also in the years that followed, as junior officers who had been present on the day gradually became more affluent thanks either to promotion or prize money. It is therefore more than probable that this painting would have been executed for a British naval officer who had participated in the battle and wanted an enduring memento of it.


    Works by Luny are in the collections of the City Art Gallery, Bristol (2), Exeter Art Gallery (4), National Maritime Museum, Greenwich (41), Mariners Museum, Newport News, Virginia (3), Peabody Museum of Salem, Massachusetts (1), Swansea Museum (1) and the Library of New South Wales, Sydney (1)
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