John Callow (British, 1822-1878) H.M.S. “Victory” heavily engaged at Trafalgar 61 x 91.4cm. (24 x 36in.)

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Lot 157*
John Callow
(British, 1822-1878)
H.M.S. “Victory” heavily engaged at Trafalgar 61 x 91.4cm. (24 x 36in.)

Sold for £ 9,600 (US$ 12,321) inc. premium
John Callow (British, 1822-1878)
H.M.S. “Victory” heavily engaged at Trafalgar
signed 'J.Callow' (lower right), indistinctly inscribed and dated 1875 on old label on reverse
oil on canvas
61 x 91.4cm. (24 x 36in.)

Footnotes

  • Provenance :- N.R.Omell, 1986.

    Nelson’s victory at Trafalgar on 21st October 1805 was the culmination of a twelve-year struggle against the navies of Revolutionary France and her allies. Although the battle cost Nelson his life, it achieved its objective of annihilating the combined Franco-Spanish fleet of thirty-three ships-of-war and forestalled for ever Napoleon’s plans for the invasion of England.

    The scale and consequences of the victory were such that practically every marine artist alive in 1805/06 painted his own version of the event, either as a panorama of the whole or as individual incidents within it. Once the Napoleonic Wars finally ended in 1815 and Britain’s supremacy at sea was confirmed, generations of artists throughout the rest of the nineteenth century continued to portray the greatest sea battle in history in order to satisfy an apparently insatiable public appetite for depictions of Lord Nelson’s enduring triumph. Amongst these later painters was John Callow (1822-78), whose Trafalgar picture offered here contains all the heady drama of the battle in full spate whilst at the same time employing a little licence to heighten the overall effect.

    Clearly showing H.M.S. “Victory” embroiled in a close action with two enemy “74’s” either side of her, the vessel on “Victory’s” port quarter is shown flying the Spanish flag from her foremasthead even though, in fact, Nelson’s flagship only found herself engaging French ships throughout the battle. Nevertheless, the sight of “Victory” being pounded by two adversaries at once was all too true and she suffered terrible damage, including the loss of her mizzen mast, from which she barely survived the day. As the perfect foil for “Victory’s” steadfastness however, Callow heightens the overall sense of British achievement with his portrayal of the disabled Spanish four-decker listing heavily in the foreground. The only four-decker ever built and the largest sailing warship in the world, the mighty “Santisima Trinidad” mounted 140 guns and was the principal Spanish flagship. Already a veteran of the battle of Cape St. Vincent, she was thought impregnable but took a tremendous battering at Trafalgar and eventually surrendered to H.M.S. “Prince” [Captain Grindall]. Even in her damaged state she was still a hugely valuable prize and many an English purse felt her loss keenly when she foundered in heavy weather on 24th October whilst making for Gibraltar under her prize crew.
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