Admiral George Brydges Rodney (1719-92), 1st Baron Rodney

(Updated, March 2019) A full-length portrait to right in admiral’s full-dress uniform and wearing the ribbon and star of the Bath. His right hand is on an anchor fluke and his left clenched across his chest. His hair is probably his own. In the right background the artist has shown a scene from the Battle of the Saints, 1782. The primary version of the portrait was painted for the Prince of Wales (who became George IV in 1820), was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1789, and is still in the Royal Collection. A previous belief that this copy may have been in Reynolds's studio at his death, then belonged to his niece Lady Thomond, and was bought by the king at auction in 1821, appears to be mistaken. David Mannings' s Reynolds catalogue (pub. 2000, in which it is no.1545a) states it was painted for George IV from the prime version in 1824 and it is certainly the case that the king presented it to the Naval Gallery at Greenwich Hospital in March 1825 as one of the group of over thirty works, mainly naval portraits from the royal collection, with which he endowed that as its leading benefactor between 1824 and 1829.

Although Rodney served almost continuously from 1732 until he was promoted admiral in 1759, it is only after that time that he had opportunities to distinguish himself. In the year of his promotion he commanded a squadron which destroyed invasion barges at Le Havre. In 1761 he went to the West Indies as Commander-in-Chief of the Leeward Islands where he succeeded in taking Martinique, St Lucia, Grenada and St Vincent from the French. During the peaceful years of 1765-70 Rodney was Governor of Greenwich Hospital. In 1779 he was offered the Leeward Islands station again and ordered to relieve Gibraltar from Spanish siege on the way, since both Spain and France had allied themselves with the rebels in Britain's American colonies. In January 1780, when hs fleet of 18 of the line and and 6 frigates had almost reached Gibraltar, it intercepted a Spanish squadron of nine ships and two frigates off Cape St Vincent. During the fight, sometimes called the 'Moonlight Action' since it went on well into the night, one Spanish ship blew up, and four to six were captured though the fate of two remains disputed: it was nonethless a significant victory. Gibraltar was relieved and Rodney proceeded to the West Indies with four ships of the line. For the next two years, apart from a brief respite in England for reasons of health, Rodney conducted the war against the powerful French forces there until he won the victory of the Saints on 12 April 1782. This ended French effectiveness in the West Indies as allies of the American rebels, and helped bring conclusion to the American war in 1783.Reynolds's original portrait of Rodney is one of the finest of his late works and this copy reflects a great deal of its quality. Rodney's health by 1788 (when it was painted) had long been poor and his extravagance (including gambling) made his later life one of continuous pursuit by creditors and legal actions. The image is nonethless a monument to his craggy grandeur and endurance.

Object Details

ID: BHC2971
Collection: Fine art
Type: Painting
Display location: Not on display
Creator: Reynolds, Style of Joshua; Shepperson, Matthew Reynolds, Joshua
Vessels: Royal Naval uniform regulations 1787-95: Flag Officers (dress)
Date made: 18th century; 1824 (original 1788-9) 1824
People: Rodney, George Brydges; King George IV
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Greenwich Hospital Collection
Measurements: Painting: 2390 mm x 1460 mm; Frame: 2540 mm x 1600 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.