Portrait of Captain William Peacock, circa 1783

A three-quarter-length portrait to left in captain's (over three years) full-dress uniform, 1774-87. He holds his hat in his left hand and wears his own hair powdered. He gestures with his right arm towards a British and a United States ship in action, with the American striking.

A second portrait of Peacock by Rigaud was sold by Mallett in 1999. In that version Peacock gestures to a ship under his right hand, most likely the 'Childers', which he commanded during the America War. Rigaud exhibited that version at the Royal Academy in 1781 alongside portraits of Nelson (BHC2901) and Captain Charles Morice Pole. It is possible that the action visible further under Peacock's arm shows the 'Beaver' attacking the 'Oliver Cromwell' in 1777. On May 19, the Beaver defeated the larger and better armed, Pensylvannia privateer 'Oliver Cromwell' off St Lucia. As Lieutenant of the Beaver, Peacock was promoted for this success, along with his captain, so would have been justly proud of the event. Peaock was promoted captain on 27 January 1780 and according to Beaston's Political Index, he was dead by 1786.

Rigaud was born in Turin. He studied in Turin, Florence and Bologna, and lived in Rome for two years from 1768. In 1771 he settled in London, becoming an Associate of the Royal Academy in the following year and a full Academician in 1784. He received a steady stream of commissions for historical subjects, as well as decorative compositions and portraits. Rigaud was one of the major painters of large-scale decorative schemes for fashionable interiors of the late 18th century. As a portrait artist, he could be frank and expressive when not seeking heroic effects.

Object Details

ID: BHC3106
Collection: Fine art
Type: Painting
Display location: Not on display
Creator: Rigaud, John Francis
Date made: circa 1783; circa 1780
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Caird Collection
Measurements: Painting: 1262 mm x 1004 mm x 22 mm

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