Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of Admiral, Lord Nelson (1758-1805) 

Catherine Andras (1775-1860)

Portrait of Admiral, Lord Nelson (1758-1805), Catherine Andras
19th Century
Oval, 2 ¾ inches, 7cm high
Early 19th century turned pearwood frame

Catherine Andras was born in Bristol and worked in a local toy shop where her skills for creating wax models attracted the attention of local funfairs, and, following an introduction to the established portrait miniature painter Robert Bowyer (1758-1834) began working in London under the latter’s guidance.

Bowyer was a highly reputed artist and in 1789, on the death of Jeremiah Meyer (1735-1789), was appointed Miniature Painter in Ordinary to the King which helped him secure the patronage of numerous aristocratic figures including Nelson. It would have been as a result of her affiliation with Bowyer that in 1800 Andras was commissioned to model from life Princess Charlotte aged five, and, later in the year, Nelson for the first time. Andras’ capabilities were recognised in 1801 by the Royal Society of Arts who awarded her the Greater Silver Pallet, and later in the years her wax of Nelson was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1801 [whereabouts unknown]. Nelson sat for Andras whilst he was in London on eight week leave prior to his departure for the Baltic campaign on 13th January 1801, an introduction which was no doubt brought around by Bowyer who had a sitting around the same time.

The present work is taken from a sitting with Nelson between August and September 1805 and just prior to his death at the Battle of Trafalgar on 21st October 1805. The sitting is unusually well-documented and a rare glimpse of Nelson’s humour is charmingly recorded in a posthumous unpublished manuscript in the possession of the Bowyer family: “When miss Andras was working at the medallion of the Hero, the celebrated miniature painter Robert Bowyer happened to be painting the other side of the great Admiral’s face, upon which Nelson laughingly remarked that he was not used to being attacked in that manner starboard and larboard at the same time.”

The wax relief proved to be an instant success and was generally regarded amongst Nelson’s circle as the most faithful likeness; Lady Hamilton herself insisting it was to be used as a basis for Matthew Boulton’s commemorative medal produced in 1805: “She showed me the inclosed Wax Profile which she declares is the most striking likeness that has been taken…” As a result of the wax relief’s success Andras was commissioned by Westminster Abbey to create an impressive wax effigy in an attempt to counter-attract the flocks of people going to St Paul’s Cathedral to see Nelson’s final resting place. The effigy is life-size and wears the battle of Nile medal and four embroidered stars of the Orders of the Bath, the Crescent, St Ferdinand and Merit, and St Joachim, with two sashes. Andras was paid over one-hundred pounds for the effigy which was a considerable amount of money, especially when one considers John Hoppner around the same time was charging eighty guineas for a half-length copy of his 1805 portrait of Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger.

Letter from J.F.Tuffin to Matthew Boulton, 26th February 1806 (J.G Pollard Matthew Boulton and Conrad Heinrich Kuchler’ Numismatic Chronicle X 1970, p.307)
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