The Honorable Augustus Keppel Admiral of the Blue & Commander in Chief of a Squadron of Ships
A three-quarter-length portrait of Augustus Keppel (1725–1786) in flag officer’s undress uniform, 1748–1767, holding a telescope in his left hand and the hilt of his sword in his right. There is a naval engagement in the left background. Lettered beneath the image with the title: ‘The Honourable Augustus Keppel Admiral of the Blue & Commander in Chief of a Squadron of Ships’. Also lettered with the publication line: ‘London, Printed for R. Sayer & J. Bennett, No. 53 Fleet Street, as the Act directs 1 Sepr. 1778.’ This print is derived from an original painting by Joshua Reynolds, which had previously been engraved in mezzotint by Edward Fisher in 1760 (see PAF3462). Various changes have been made to the appearance of Reynolds’s painting, including the addition of the naval battle in the background. This battle may be intended as a reference to the Battle of Ushant in July 1778, at which Keppel commanded the British fleet. 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. This print was published in September 1778, probably to capitalise upon the increased public interest in Keppel during this controversy. 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. However, Keppel never served at sea again. (Updated April 2019.)
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