The Honourable Augustus Keppel Admiral of the Blue Squadron, and Commander in Chief of His Majesty's Fleet which engaged and defeated the French on the 27 & 28 of July 1778 off Ushant
A full-length portrait of Augustus Keppel (1725–1786) in captain’s undress uniform, 1748–1767, holding a telescope in his left hand and leaning on the barrel of a cannon with ships in the background, including Keppel’s flagship ‘Victory’, 100 guns, on the right. Lettered beneath the image with the title: ‘The Honorable Augustus Keppel. Admiral of the Blue Squadron and Commander in Chief of His Majesty’s Fleet, which engaged and defeated the French on the 27/28 of July 1778, off Ushant.’ Also lettered with the publication line: ‘Printed for & Sold by Carington Bowles at his Map & Print Warehouse, No. 69 in St. Pauls Church Yard, London. Publish’d as the Act directs 2 March 1779’. Keppel’s head and torso in this print are derived from Edward Fisher’s mezzotint of 1760 after Joshua Reynolds’s painted portrait of 1759 (see PAF3462). This print was published by Carington Bowles in response to the widespread public interest in Keppel after he commanded the British fleet at the Battle of Ushant in July 1778 – the action mentioned in the print’s caption. The result of this battle was inconclusive, giving rise to a bitter and highly public dispute between Keppel and his second-in-command Hugh Palliser over what had gone wrong. The whole affair was politically charged, for Keppel had the support of the opposition Whigs whereas Palliser was backed by the Tory government. The dispute culminated in Keppel being court-martialled. His trial generated massive public support for the opposition and his acquittal in February 1779 was greeted with widespread popular celebrations. Many portraits of the admiral were printed in this period, catering to a public demand for Keppel memorabilia. These images often included prominent images of guns and ships, thus glossing over the inconclusive outcome of the Battle of Ushant with unambiguously masculine and militaristic imagery. (Updated April 2019).
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