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Portrait miniature - Portrait of Arthur Wellesley, later 1st Duke of Wellington
  • Portrait of Arthur Wellesley, later 1st Duke of Wellington
    Cosway, Richard RA, born 1742 - died 1821
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Portrait of Arthur Wellesley, later 1st Duke of Wellington

  • Object:

    Portrait miniature

  • Place of origin:

    England (probably, painted)

  • Date:

    1808 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Cosway, Richard RA, born 1742 - died 1821 (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Watercolour on ivory

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Mrs Emma Joseph

  • Museum number:

    P.6-1941

  • Gallery location:

    Portrait Miniatures, Room 90a, The International Music and Art Foundation Gallery, case 10

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.

Physical description

Portrait miniature of Arthur Wellesley, later the Duke of Wellington, dated 1808.

Place of Origin

England (probably, painted)

Date

1808 (painted)

Artist/maker

Cosway, Richard RA, born 1742 - died 1821 (artist)

Materials and Techniques

Watercolour on ivory

Dimensions

Height: 71 mm, Width: 56 mm

Descriptive line

Portrait miniature of Arthur Wellesley, later the Duke of Wellington, dated 1808, painted on ivory by Richard Cosway (1742-1821).

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

Victoria and Albert Museum, Department of Engraving, Illustration and Design and Department of Paintings, Accessions 1941, London: HMSO, 1954.

Materials

Watercolour; Ivory

Techniques

Painting

Subjects depicted

Portrait

Categories

Paintings; Portraits

Collection

Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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