The Honble Augustus Keppel, Admiral of the Blue...

A half-length portrait of Augustus Keppel (1725–1786) looking to right in a dark coat with one button fastened across his chest. The portrait is surrounded by a fictive rectangular frame. Lettered beneath the image with the title: ‘The Honble Augustus Keppel, Admiral of the Blue.’ Also lettered with the production details and publication line: ‘Painted by G. Romney. Engraved by W. Dickinson. London, Published March 30th 1779, by Dickinson & Watson No.158 New Bond Street.’ This print was engraved by William Dickinson in 1779 after an original painting by George Romney, produced in 1776 for the Duke of Richmond and now at Goodwood House. Augustus Keppel had a long naval career. He was the second son of the Earl of Albemarle and one of a powerful Whig family who came to England with William III in 1688. At the age of fifteen in 1740, Keppel sailed with Commodore George Anson on his four-year voyage around the world. He then served as a captain in the Western Squadron before being made commodore and sent on diplomatic mission to the Mediterranean in 1749. Keppel subsequently led a small expedition to capture the island fortress of Gorée on the West African coast in 1758 and commanded the ‘Torbay’, 74 guns, at the Battle of Quiberon Bay in 1759. In August 1762, he was second-in-command to Sir George Pocock at the capture of Havana, gaining promotion to rear-admiral a few months later. In the late 1760s and the 1770s, he pursued a political career on shore. Romney’s portrait was painted during this period in Keppel’s life and depicts the admiral in civilian clothing, rather than naval uniform, in order to emphasise his political career instead of his seafaring exploits. However, Keppel subsequently returned to sea in 1778. In July 1778, he commanded the British fleet at the Battle of Ushant. The result of this battle was inconclusive, giving rise to a bitter 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. This print was engraved and published in response to this event, catering to a public demand for Keppel memorabilia. For an earlier state of this print with different inscriptions, see PAG6394. (Updated April 2019.)

Object Details

ID: PAG6395
Type: Print
Display location: Not on display
Creator: Dickinson & Watson; Dickinson, William
Date made: 30 Mar 1779
People: Keppel, Augustus
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Measurements: Sheet: 475 x 372 mm; Mount: 631 mm x 480 mm

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