Royal Museums Greenwich.
Today we return to caricatures with James Gillray's 1805 satire "The Death of Lord Nelson". The image shows the wounded Nelson on the deck of HMS Victory, with a winged figure in the background blowing a trumpet that spurts fire like a cannon and signaling immortality.
Nelson is supported by Lord Hardy, whom Gillray has drawn to resemble King George III, and by a grief-stricken personification of Brittania, who is recognizable in caricature as Emma Hamilton.
"Broadsides: Caricatures and the Navy 1756-1815" gives the following commentary on the print:
The hubbub around the dying figure may be exaggerated to the point of absurdity, but the sense of personal and national grief conveyed by Gillray's print is no less authentic. The real target of the artist's satire, it seems, is not Nelson (who finds redemption in death), but in the unbridled and, at times, unseemly race to institutionalize the loss of national hero. An inscription beneath the image informs the viewer that the allegory is, in fact, a proposal for an official memorial for the City of London, intended "to commemorate the Glorious Death of the immortal Nelson." In the event, Gillray's overstated tribute proved prescient, as many such proposals came to light n the wake of Nelson's death and funeral.In the background of the print are a number of common British tars, who are of course the focus of interest of this blog.
The standing sailor holds his black round hat in his hand, revealing its white lining. His brown hair is short and straight. He is not wearing a jacket, revealing a striped blue and white shirt and loosely-tied red and yellow patterned handkerchief tied over his light brown waistcoat, which is worn unbuttoned almost to his navel.
In the background several more tars work a gun. One hauling on a tackle of the gun appears to have vertically-striped (or it could be the hatching of the engraver; it's hard to tell) blue and white stockings and petticoat trousers. The two on the right wear blue jackets and black round hats, while the man firing the gun wears petticoat trousers and a blue jacket. His head might be bare, or wearing a cap - it's hard to tell from so little information.