Nelson's Last Signal at Trafalgar

A photogravure after the painting, ‘Nelson’s Last Signal at Trafalgar’, by Thomas Davidson. Nelson is shown in the centre of the image standing on the deck of the ‘Victory’. He gestures towards the ship’s captain, Thomas Hardy, with Captain Blackwood of the ‘Euryalus’ looking on. His secretary, John Scott is also identifiable in the foreground on the right. On the left, sailors prepare to hoist the flags of Nelson’s famous signal to the fleet. Other officers look on in the distance on the right.

The figures are portrayed in a highly stylized manner as they prepare for battle. The artist has aimed more at dramatic effect than at recognizable portraits of Nelson and his two captains. A photogravure is a photographic image produced from an engraving plate to create a look combining photography with lithography. It appeared in the Supplement to the December 1912 Christmas edition of ‘Holly Leaves, The Illustrated Sporting & Dramatic News’. The print was accompanied by descriptive text:

‘The signal to “Prepare for action”, having been made at 11.30 in the morning of the ever memorable 21 Oct 1805 there seemed no other signal wanting when Nelson observed, ‘I must give the Fleet something by way of a fillip, say to them, ‘England expects that every man will do his duty’; and you must be quick’. Nelson then turning to Captain Blackwood and Hardy said ‘now I can do no more’. We must trust to the great Disposer of all events and the justice of our cause. I thank God for this great opportunity of doing my duty’. Captain Blackwood of the Euryalus relates that the answering shout of enthusiastic cheering with which this immortal signal was greeted was made sublime by the spirit which is breathed and the feeling which it expressed.’

See also ‘Nelson's Last Signal at Trafalgar. England expects that every man will do his duty’, PAI8286 and PAI8287. The artist produced several other paintings relating to Nelson, ‘The First Meeting of Lady Hamilton and Lord Nelson’, 1886, and ‘Nelson at the Battle of Copenhagen’ in 1897.

Object Details

ID: PAH8019
Collection: Fine art
Type: Print
Display location: Not on display
Creator: Davidson, Thomas; Landeker & Brown Davidson, Thomas
Events: Napoleonic Wars: Battle of Trafalgar, 1805
Date made: Published December 1912
People: Nelson, Horatio
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Measurements: Sheet: 541 x 739 mm; Mount: 605 mm x 833 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.