Napoleon Bonaparte on Board the Bellerophon in Plymouth Sound

Essential information

Opening times: 
National Maritime Museum, Second floor, Nelson Navy Nation gallery

See a defeated Napoleon posing for curious onlookers.

In 1815, Napoleon surrendered to Captain Frederick Maitland of the Bellerophon which brought him to England and he was detained on board in Plymouth Sound during July while his fate was decided. 

He usually appeared at about 6.00 pm for the benefit of the numerous boats loaded with sightseers, which enabled the artist Charles Eastlake to make rapid sketches from life for the portrait. 

Napoleon dominates the picture as he looks beyond the viewer in the direction of the onlookers. His right elbow leans immediately below a Union flag underscoring British victory and his defeat.

The painting was enormously popular when it was exhibited in 1815, and although based on the eyewitness account of Eastlake when a young man, the end result is heavily contrived.