Nelson's Flagships at Anchor

A composite picture showing five of the ships in which Nelson served as a captain and flag officer from the start of the French Wars in 1793 to his death in 1805. The artist has depicted them drying sails in a calm at Spithead, Portsmouth, and despite the traditional title, two of them were not strictly flagships. The ship on the left in bow view is the 'Agamemnon', 64 guns. It was Nelson's favourite ship, which he commanded as a captain from 1793. Broadside on is the 'Vanguard', 74 guns, his flagship at the Battle of the Nile in 1798 flying a white ensign and his blue flag as Rear-Admiral of the Blue at the mizzen. Stern on is the 'Elephant', 74 guns, his temporary flagship at the Battle of Copenhagen in 1801. She is flying the blue ensign from the stern and Nelson's flag as Vice-Admiral of the Blue at her foremast. In the centre distance is the 'Captain', 74 guns, in which Nelson flew a commodore's broad pendant at the Battle of St Vincent, 1797. Dominating the right foreground is the 'Victory', 100 guns, shown in her original state, with open stern galleries, and not as she was at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. She is shown at anchor flying the flag of Vice-Admiral of the White, Nelson's Trafalgar rank, and firing a salute to starboard as an admiral's barge is rowed alongside, amidst other small craft.

The painting is one of a series of six paintings created for a two-volume 'Life of Nelson', begun shortly after Nelson's death in 1805 by Clarke and McArthur and published in 1809. They were engraved by James Fittler and reproduced in the biography with lengthy explanatory texts. The artist placed considerable importance on accuracy, referring to his annotated drawings and sketch plans in the production of his oil paintings.

Pocock was born and brought up in Bristol, went to sea at the age of 17 and rose to command several merchant ships. Although he only took up painting as a profession in his early forties, he became extremely successful, receiving commissions from naval commanders anxious to have accurate portrayals of actions and ships. By the age of 80, Pocock had recorded nearly 40 years of maritime history, demonstrating a meticulous understanding of shipping and rigging with close attention to detail.

Object Details

ID: BHC1096
Collection: Fine art
Type: Painting
Display location: Display - QH
Creator: Pocock, Nicholas
Vessels: Captain (1787); Elephant (1786) Victory (1765) Vanguard (1787) Agamemnon (1781)
Date made: 1807
Exhibition: Art for the Nation; Caird Collection
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Caird Collection
Measurements: Painting: 356 mm x 546 mm; Frame: 497 mm x 685 mm x 70 mm

Your Request

If an item is shown as “offsite”, please allow eight days for your order to be processed. For further information, please contact Archive staff:

Tel: (during Library opening hours)

Click “Continue” below to continue processing your order with the Library team.