Portrait of Arthur Wellesley, later 1st Duke of Wellington thumbnail 1
Portrait of Arthur Wellesley, later 1st Duke of Wellington thumbnail 2
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Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Portrait Miniatures, Room 90a, The International Music and Art Foundation Gallery

Portrait of Arthur Wellesley, later 1st Duke of Wellington

Portrait Miniature
1808 (painted)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Richard Cosway was accused by some of his contemporaries of idealising his sitters. It was thought that his broad style merely flattered, catching only a general air rather than minutely delineating detail. In fact, he was capable of producing fine interpretive studies of character. This portrait of Arthur Wellesley, later 1st Duke of Wellington, and one of the most well-known faces of the early 19th century, is testament to Cosway's ability. It is a face marked by character, full of bird-like analogies--the eagle-eye and hawk-nose--self confident, but handsome rather than predatory.

This miniature was painted in 1808 and marks the beginning of Arthur Wellesley's famous exploits against Napoleon, who in 1804 had crowned himself Emperor of the French, having brought nearly all Western Europe to his heel. The Peninsular War (1808-14), conducted in Spain and Portugal against the emperor's forces, was a continual drain of Napoleon's strength. It ended with Napoleon's exile on the island of Elba and Wellesley being named the Duke of Wellington. The following year Napoleon escaped from Elba. His final battle with the newly created Duke was at Waterloo (1815), which Napoleon lost.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Watercolour on ivory
Brief Description
Portrait miniature of Arthur Wellesley, later the Duke of Wellington, dated 1808, painted on ivory by Richard Cosway (1742-1821).
Physical Description
Portrait miniature of Arthur Wellesley, later the Duke of Wellington, dated 1808.
Dimensions
  • Height: 71mm
  • Width: 56mm
Credit line
Given by Mrs Emma Joseph
Subjects depicted
Summary
Richard Cosway was accused by some of his contemporaries of idealising his sitters. It was thought that his broad style merely flattered, catching only a general air rather than minutely delineating detail. In fact, he was capable of producing fine interpretive studies of character. This portrait of Arthur Wellesley, later 1st Duke of Wellington, and one of the most well-known faces of the early 19th century, is testament to Cosway's ability. It is a face marked by character, full of bird-like analogies--the eagle-eye and hawk-nose--self confident, but handsome rather than predatory.



This miniature was painted in 1808 and marks the beginning of Arthur Wellesley's famous exploits against Napoleon, who in 1804 had crowned himself Emperor of the French, having brought nearly all Western Europe to his heel. The Peninsular War (1808-14), conducted in Spain and Portugal against the emperor's forces, was a continual drain of Napoleon's strength. It ended with Napoleon's exile on the island of Elba and Wellesley being named the Duke of Wellington. The following year Napoleon escaped from Elba. His final battle with the newly created Duke was at Waterloo (1815), which Napoleon lost.
Bibliographic Reference
Victoria and Albert Museum, Department of Engraving, Illustration and Design and Department of Paintings, Accessions 1941, London: HMSO, 1954.
Collection
Accession Number
P.6-1941

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record createdFebruary 26, 2003
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