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Nelson was struck by a musket ball fired from the French ‘Redoutable’ at approximately 1.30pm. Mortally wounded, he was rapidly carried below so that the men around him would not lose heart. Drummond’s composition here pays homage to imagery relating to the deposition from the Cross. On the left in the foreground, Nelson is held by two sailors and a marine who descend the companionway, apparently from the quarter-deck to the middle deck in this case. A dead marine lies on the lower level on the left and an injured sailor next to him, the latter being attended to by a soldier kneeling over him. A musket, discarded hat and other objects are carefully arranged on the deck in the foreground. These still-life motifs also appear in the other versions by Drummond.
Drummond has concentrated on the vertical thrust and strong diagonals created by the figure of the sailor on the right with his back to the viewer and the sailors on the left shown priming the gun. The sails billow and swirl around the smoke to frame the composition and enhance the dramatic effect.
This is one of a number of other variations by Drummond on the same subject (see also BHC0547, BHC0543, BHC0551 and PAF5982) and may relate to his large ‘Death of Nelson’ exhibited at the British Institution in 1807.
The Death of Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar, 21 October 1805
oil on canvas
H 72.5 x W 82.5 cm