Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Battle of Trafalgar (1825 Dighton painting)

It's the last post of the month, which means looking at another work of art created outside of the 1790-1820 time period.

Since I'm still on a bit of a Trafalgar kick I'm looking at another painting of the Battle of Trafalgar, this one from 1825. Last month I looked at JMW Turner's return to the events of October 21, 1805 in a painting from 1824, a topic he originally visited in oils in 1806.

Turner also made extensive sketches of Victory and her sailors when he visited Portsmouth in 1805, so while his 1824 painting was criticized by naval men for compressing the events of more than one day into a single scene, he was familiar with the original state of Victory and what her sailors were wearing in 1805.
The Fall of Nelson, Battle of Trafalgar, 21 Oct. 1805. Royal Museums Greenwich.
Denis Dighton's 1825 oil painting, on the other hand, feels more like a product of the 1820s. As the Royal Museums Greenwich catalog entry notes, "The artist has mistakenly shown the high solid gunwales and round bow of the 'Victory', modifications made some years after Trafalgar. Their introduction was influenced by the heavy casualties suffered in the battle."
Different, too, are the clothes Dighton's sailors wear. Several of them are painted wearing only Guernsey frocks with nothing underneath. Sailors wearing frocks appear in more contemporary paintings (such as this one from 1815), but they're often portrayed as a garment worn over shirts and neck-cloths.

Several sailors have huge sideburns that verge on muttonchops and long, thick queues, in contrast to more contemporaneous images of the events of October 21, 1805 that are more likely to show sailors with short, curly hair, and nearly clean-shaven.
Detail from JMW Turner's The Battle of Trafalgar... 
© Tate Photographic Rights © Tate (2016), CC-BY-NC-ND 3.0 (Unported), 
The original can be at the Tate viewed by clicking here.
This painting is an interesting contrast to other paintings about the events of October 21, 1805 done in the years immediately after the battle, which I hope to look at in subsequent posts, particularly the two famous paintings of the Death of Nelson: Benjamin West's 1806 painting and Arthur William Devis's 1807 painting.

No comments:

Post a Comment