Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of Admiral Sir Edward Pellew, later 1st Viscount Exmouth 1757-1833 1810c.

Sir Thomas Lawrence PRA (1769-1830)

Portrait of Admiral Sir Edward Pellew, later 1st Viscount Exmouth 1757-1833, Sir Thomas Lawrence PRA
Oil on canvas
19th Century
29 3/4 x 24 3/8 inches
Edward Hawke Locker Esq. (1777-1849) By descent in the Locker family at Rowfant, Sussex until 1926, when purchased by Knoedler, London. Collection of Andre de Coppet Esq., New York. With Newhouse Galleries, New York, 1960.
Freeman O1 Donoghue, Catalogue of Engraved British Portraits, 1910, Vol.11, p. 184. Sir Walter Armstrong, Lawrence, 1913, p. 131. Kenneth Garlick, A catalogue of the paintings, drawings and pastels of Sir Thomas Lawrence, The Walpole Society, Vol.XXXIX, 1964, pp.77-8. Richard Walker, Regency Portraits, 1985, Vol.1 (Text), p. 178. Kenneth Garlick, Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1989, No.286a, p. 186.
In mezzotint by C.Turner, 1815. In mezzotint by H.Robinson, 1834.
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Lawrence's portraits of military and naval sitters are amongst his finest works, of which this portrait of the naval hero, Admiral Sir Edward Pellew, later 1st Viscount Exmouth (1757-1833) is an excellent example. Painted in around 1810, it demonstrates the artist's abilities to create romantic images, as well as taking superb likenesses set him apart from his contemporaries and his dominance of fashionable portraiture. It his ability to combine glamour, drama and the heroic that epitomises the high style of Regency England.

When the portrait was engraved in mezzotint by Charles Turner in 1815, the sitter only wore the star of the Order of the Bath on his naval uniform. When the portrait was engraved by Henry Robinson in 1834, the year after the sitter's death, a small cross suspended on a ribbon around the neck and the sash of the Bath had been added. These later additions were subsequently removed. Several versions of the later three-quarter length portrait were painted. Two have passed by descent in the sitter''s family. One of which was exhibited at the South Kensington National Portraits of 1868 (No.58).

Another, painted for Viscount Sidmouth, was the subject of correspondence between the sitter and the artist in 1820:
Exmouth to Lawrence, Richmond Park, 21 August 1820:
I am much gratified to hear that you are pleased with the picture and I feel that you have bestowed on it particular and minute attention on it very flattering to my feelings...

This portrait was presumably the one lent to the British Institution in 1833 (No.4) by Lord Sidmouth.

Our portrait was engraved in 1815 as From the collection of Edward Hawke Locker. Edward Hawke Locker (1777-1849) had been civil secretary to Pellew in 1804 and then served with him in that capacity during his command in the East Indies, 1804-9, in the North Sea in 1810 and in the Mediterranean 1811-14. In 1819 he was appointed secretary of Greenwich Hospital and in 1824 civil commissioner.

In 1823 Locker proposed a scheme to establish a gallery of naval portraits in the Painted Hall at Greenwich. Despite initial problems, the project did take off with Locker soliciting donations and paintings. George IV ordered that all the naval portraits in the royal collection should be removed to Greenwich and in following years contributed a number of paintings from his private collection.

The present portrait was presumably either a gift to Locker from Pellew or It is not known whether he intended the portrait which was engraved in 1815 to form part of the Greenwich Hospital display. However, it passed by descent in the Locker family until 1926 when it was purchased by Knoedler. Coming from a Cornish family with maritime associations, Pellew joined the navy at the age of thirteen. Rising rapidly through the ranks by acts of repeated gallantry, he became famed for his exceptional seamanship and bravery.

Pellew commanded the thirty-six gun frigate the Nymphe in the French War of 1793. Manning her with some eighty Cornish miners, he set out from Falmouth on 18 June and the following day engaged the French frigate Cleoptatre commanded by Captain Mullon. After a short but very sharp action the Cleopatre mizenmast an wheel were blown away and she was boarded and captured in a fierce rush. Mullon was mortally wounded, and died trying to swallow his commission papers which he had mistaken for the code of secret signals. Thus the Cleopatre became the first enemy ship of the war to be captured and the signals thus were sent to the Admiralty. Pellew on 29 June was presented to the King by the Earl of Chatham and was knighted.

After further successes against the French, he took command if the Indefatigable - in January 1796 in adverse conditions and with great bravery he saved the crew and passengers of a transport ship driven aground at Plymouth Sound. The following year in a famous action, with a companion frigate they destroyed the French 74-gun ship Droits de I'Homme.

In March 1799 Pellew moved to the command of the Impetueux, a much larger vessel whose crew were known to be on the verge of mutiny. At Bantry Bay on 30 May mutiny did break out with the rebels intending to burn the ships and escape to the shore. Pellew threw himself amongst the men, seized one of the ringleaders and dragged him on deck. The officers following his example secured others and the rebellion was quelled. St. Vincent speaking of the incident afterwards said that Pellew was an excellent and valuable officer, but the most important service he ever rendered his country was saving the British fleet in Bantry Bay.

In 1802 Pellew was elected Member of Parliament for Barnstaple but with war imminent, he applied for active employment and was appointed to the 80-gun ship Tonnant. In April 1804 he was promoted to the rank of Rear-Admiral and at the same time was appointed commander-in-chief in the East Indies.
In 1808 he was advanced to the rank of vice-admiral and the following year he returned to England. He was appointed commander-in-chief of the North Sea and then of the Mediterranean. He was raised to the peerage on 4 may 1814 as Baron Exmouth of Canonteign and less than a month later became an admiral of the blue.

After Napoleon's exile to Elba and subsequent escape, Exmouth was sent in the Boyne to North Africa to demand the release of all British subjects and the abolition of Christian slavery. Only Algiers resisted and after a fierce bombardment that lasted some eight hours Exmouth's ships destroyed the enemy''s batteries and much of the town. The following day his demands were met and subsequently some three thousand slaves, mostly Italians and Spaniards, were released. Exmouth's victory was celebrated throughout Europe and he was accorded a large number of honours and awards. He raised to viscount and between 1817-21 was commander-in-chief at Plymouth. He died at Teignmouth on 23 January 1833.
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