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Plaque

  • Place of origin:

    London (made)

  • Date:

    1798 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Craft, William Hopkins (painter)

  • Credit Line:

    Purchased with funds from the Hugh Phillips Bequest

  • Museum number:

    C.102:1, 2-2011

  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 120, The Wolfson Galleries, case 11 []

This plaque commemorates, by means of a patriotic allegory, four British naval heroes and their victories in the French Revolutionary Wars. It is one of London enamel painter William Hopkins Craft's most ambitious works and is a tour-de-force in the application of a detailed miniature painting style to very large scale enamels.

The plaque shows the seated figure of Britannia indicating a triumphal column bearing the four laurel-wreathed names of Admirals Howe, Jervis, Duncan and Nelson and commemorating their respective victories in the French Revolutionary Wars - at the third Battle of Ushant (1st June 1794), Cape St. Vincent (14th February 1797), Camperdown (11th October 1797) and the Battle of the Nile (1st-3rd August 1798). It also depicts the British Lion trampling underfoot the flags of France, Spain and the Netherlands. The giltwood frame is elaborately carved with naval trophies and emblems of Victory and Plenty.

Craft, born in Tottenham about 1730, is said to have worked as an enameller in Paris for a time before joining the London enamelling workshop managed by David Rhodes for Wedgwood and Bentley in 1768. Wedgwood employed him to paint designs on cream-coloured earthenware and black Basaltes. Rhodes and Craft decorated the famous neo-classical style First Day's Vases which celebrated the opening of Wedgwood's Etruria factory in 1769. Thomas Craft, the Bow porcelain painter was probably William Hopkins Craft's brother.

After leaving Wedgwood's in 1770, Craft turned exclusively to painting enamels on copper. An adept painter of portrait miniatures on enamel, he also worked in small scale on watch cases and chatelaines. More frequently, he painted unusually large portrait plaques such as that of Sir Joshua Reynolds (1786) in the Ashmolean Museum and Sir William Hamilton (1802) in the British Museum - both over 17cms high. Craft also specialised in allegories such as that shown on this plaque and that showing England as a colonising power which embellishes a 1779 clock in the Musee d'Horlogerie du Locle, Switzerland. Occasionally he combined portraiture with allegory as instanced by the magnificent pair of ormolu-framed portraits of 'George III as Lord of the Sea trampling America' and 'Queen Charlotte as Ceres' (1773) in the British Museum. Craft's clients included royalty, politicians and scientists, and he exhibited seventeen enamels at the Royal Academy between 1774 and 1795.

Physical description

Plaque, of painted enamelled copper. The plaque shows the seated figure of Britannia indicating a triumphal column bearing the four laurel-wreathed names of Admirals Howe, Jervis, Duncan and Nelson and commemorating their respective victories at the third Battle of Ushant, 1st June 1794, Cape St. Vincent, 14th February 1797, Camperdown, 11th October 1797 and the Battle of the Nile, 01 - 3rd August 1798. It also depicts the British Lion trampling underfoot the flags of France, Spain and the Netherlands. Mounted in a frame, of giltwood, elaborately carved with naval trophies and emblems of Victory and Plenty.

Place of Origin

London (made)

Date

1798 (made)

Artist/maker

Craft, William Hopkins (painter)

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Basil S. Long, British Miniaturists, London, 1929, p. 105-106
Aubrey Toppin, 'William Hopkins Craft, Enamel painter' in English Ceramic Circle Transactions 1959, Vol 4, Pt 4, p. 14
Yvonne Hackenbroch, Bronzes and Other Metalwork and Sculpture in the Collection of Irwin Untermyer, New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1962, pl. 193, fig. 217.
Leo R Schidlof, The Miniature in Europe, 1964, vol 1, p. 171
Daphne Foskett, Dictionary of British Miniature Painters, 1972, vol 1, p. 224. This plaque is illustrated pl.65 no.184 with an image courtesy of Sothebys
Susan Benjamin, English Enamel Boxes, New York, 1978, pp.57, 108-109
Erika Speel, Dictionary of Enamelling, 1998, p.35 illustrates a large posthumous portrait of Capability Brown (1789) after Nathaniel Dance (sold Sothebys 1969)
V&A Annual Review 2011/12
p.49

Labels and date

13 PLAQUE, 1798
In this unusually large enamel painting, Britannia points to the laurel-wreathed names of four celebrated British admirals and the dates of their victories at sea. Meanwhile the British lion tramples on the flags of France, Spain and the Netherlands. The carved naval trophies on the frame reinforce the patriotic message.

Enamel on copper, painted in enamel colours, in a carved gilt wood frame
Painted in London by William Hopkins Craft (about 1730 - 1811)
Signed and dated 'W.H. Craft: Invt et fect 1798'
Purchased with funds from the Hugh Phillips Bequest
Museum no. C.102:1, 2-2011 [20/01/2012]

Categories

Enamels; British Galleries; Commemoration; Patriotism; Allegory; Scotland; A Year of Objects: October, Trafalgar Day

Collection

Ceramics Collection

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