The Death of Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar, 21 October 1805

Nelson was struck by a musket ball fired from the French Redoutable at approximately 1.30 pm. Mortally wounded, he was rapidly carried below so that the men around him would not lose heart.

Drummond’s composition here pays homage to imagery relating to the deposition from the Cross. On the left in the foreground, Nelson is held by two sailors and a marine who descend the companionway, apparently from the quarter-deck to the middle deck in this case. A dead marine lies on the lower level on the left and an injured sailor next to him, the latter being attended to by a soldier kneeling over him. A musket, discarded hat and other objects are carefully arranged on the deck in the foreground. These still-life motifs also appear in the other versions by Drummond. On the right, on the quarter-deck, English sailors and marines are engaging the French on the left, where the Redoutable is placed. Several figures have turned on the left to look towards the group carrying Nelson.

Drummond has concentrated on the vertical thrust and strong diagonals created by the figure of the sailor on the right with his back to the viewer and the sailors on the left shown priming the gun. The sails billow and swirl around the smoke to frame the composition and enhance the dramatic effect.

This is one of a number of other variations by Drummond on the same subject painted between 1806 and 1828 (see also BHC0543, BHC0551 and PAF5982) and it may relate to his large 'Death of Nelson' exhibited at the British Institution in 1807. It is the image which, in a slightly more upright version, so apparently from another canvas, Drummond himself published as a mezzotint in October 1809 (copy in the BM).
The artist exhibited a picture of this title in the Liverpool Academy exhibitions of 1812 no. 109 and of 1813 no. 26.

Object Details

ID: BHC0547
Collection: Fine art
Type: Painting
Display location: Not on display
Creator: Drummond, Samuel
Events: Napoleonic Wars: Battle of Trafalgar, 1805
Date made: 1806
People: Nelson, Horatio
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Caird Collection
Measurements: Painting: 725 mm x 825 mm; Frame: 850 mm x 950 mm x 70 mm

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