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This half-length portrait shows Nelson in rear-admiral's undress uniform, 1795–1812 pattern, wearing the Saint Vincent medal and the star of a KB. The empty right sleeve is pinned across, and the upper part slit and closed with ribbons, to accommodate the wound dressing from Nelson's loss of his right arm at Santa Cruz in July 1797.
The date of Nelson's KB, 27th September 1797, and his departure for the Mediterranean in April 1798, suggest the span within which this version was painted, while he was Rear-Admiral of the Blue and before the Battle of the Nile – which brought further decorations and promotion to Rear-Admiral of the Red in February 1799. His rank at the time of painting is confirmed by the flags of the ship in the lower left corner. The fact that it is the third version (excluding the original study) suggests a 1798 date and it was published as a mezzotint, engraved by Richard Earlom, in December that year. The inscription on this print records that Nelson had already presented the oil to his agent, Alexander Davison, whose grandson, Sir Walter Davison, bequeathed it to Greenwich Hospital in 1873.
oil on canvas
H 76.2 x W 63.5 cm
National Maritime Museum (Greenwich Hospital Collection)