Captain Sir Edward Pellew, later 1st Viscount Exmouth

A portrait of Captain Sir Edward Pellew, later Ist Viscount Exmouth, by Sir Thomas Lawrence PRA, about 1797. Pellew is best known for his bombardment of Algiers in 1816, which forced the release of over 1200 Christian captives. Lawrence’s portrait may commemorate an event of 1797 when he was captain of the frigate ‘Indefatigable’ and drove the much larger French ship, ‘Droits de l’Homme’, aground on the Brittany coast. Pellew was already celebrated by this time, since when commanding the frigate 'Nymphe' in the Channel at the start of the French Revolutionary War, he fell in with the French frigate 'Cleoptatre' off Start Point on 18 June 1793 and captured her after a short by bloody fight: this was greeted in England with acclaim as the first such single-ship capture of the war and he was knighted on the 29th. Romantic images made Lawrence the leading portrait painter of the Regency period and he later became president of the Royal Academy.

The original owner of the portrait is said to have been Captain William Locker who died in 1800, but is perhaps more likely to have been Edward Hawke Locker, who established the collection of naval paintings at Greenwich Hospital in 1823. In 1804 Locker had become Pellew’s civil secretary, a position he held until 1814 and it is possible that Pellew gave Locker the portrait in this year, especially as Charles Turner’s mezzotint was published in 1815 and may have been commissioned by Locker.

Pellew is shown wearing captain’s full dress uniform, 1795–1812, which indicates a date between 1795 and 1804 when he was promoted to rear-admiral.

Object Details

ID: ZBA0434
Collection: Fine art
Type: Painting
Display location: Not on display
Creator: Lawrence, Thomas
Date made: circa 1797
Exhibition: Art for the Nation; Collecting for the 21st Century
People: Pellew, Edward
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London. Purchased with the assistance of the Society for Nautical Research Macpherson Fund
Measurements: Frame: 1040 mm x 890 mm x 110 mm; Painting: 766 x 642 mm

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