Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of Sir Charles James Napier (1782-1853) 1852

Henry William Pickersgill (17821875)

Portrait of Sir Charles James Napier (1782-1853), Henry William Pickersgill
Oil on canvas
19th Century
50 x 40 inches 123 x 95cm
The artist's studio sale, Christie's July 16, 1875 Afterwards with Hampton and Sons, Pall Mall, London
National Portrait Gallery, ''Early Victorian Portraits'', vol. I pg.334
Exhibited at the Royal Academy, 1852, no.110
This portrait by is likely to have been exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1852. Graves'' list of exhibitors notes a painting by Pickersgill of ''General Charles Napier, G.C.B.'' (no.110), and a catalogue entry for lot 352 of his studio sale of July 16, 1875 further details a full-length portrait of the sitter. Given that no other likeness of Napier by the artist is documented, there can be little doubt that our portrait is one and the same. Pickersgill entered the RA schools in 1805 and was elected RA in 1826. His practice grew increasingly successful, and following the death of Thomas Phillips in 1845, he ''obtained almost a monopoly of painting the portraits of men and women of eminence in every walk in life''(DNB). Sitters included William Wordsworth, George Stephenson, the Duke of Wellington, Jeremy Bentham and Sir Robert Peel.

Sir Charles James Napier followed his father, Admiral George Napier, into the military in 1794. Best known as the conqueror of Sind in India, his first action was in command of a battalion under Sir John Moore in Spain during 1808. The conflict saw him severely wounded and taken prisoner at Coruna, but he was released in 1810 and made lieutenant-colonel the following year, later serving against the United States and volunteering on Napoleon''s escape from Elba in 1815. He became acquainted with Lord Byron whilst residing in Cephalonia c.1822. Byron had sailed from Genoa specifically to meet the commander, a known sympathiser for the Greek''s fight for independence, but Napier declined to join them and returned to England in 1830.

Having been promoted to major-general and made K.C.B., he was ordered to take command of Upper and Lower Sind in 1841. The region was on the brink of war, and despite attempts to find a peaceable solution with the amirs, their supporters were defiant and Napier''s 2,800 strong force faced an enemy of 22,000. Napier took Sind in a desperate battle, forcing the submission of the chiefs and organising a military occupation. He further established a civil government and effective police force, for which he was warmly congratulated by Wellington and made G.C.B. He later published works on Cephalonia, the administration of the colonies and the inadequecies of Indian government.
Philip Mould Ltd, 18-19 Pall Mall, London, SW1Y 5LU.Copyright Philip Mould Ltd.