This portrait of Admiral Horatio Nelson (1758-1805) was commissioned by his captain, William Locker. It was painted in 1797 while Nelson was convalescing at Locker’s home in Greenwich. Nelson was still in considerable pain after losing his right arm at the Battle of Santa Cruz de Tenerife. Shattered by a musket ball, the arm was amputated on board by the ship’s surgeon, but within half an hour Nelson was back at work issuing orders to his captains. He was 40 years old and had already lost the sight in his right eye. Slightly built and only 5’4’’ tall he suffered from sea sickness all his life. Returning to sea the following year, he won a decisive victory over the French fleet at the Battle of the Nile. Nelson was killed while winning the most celebrated of his several victories, at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.
The artist Lemuel Francis Abbott (1760-1802) was well known at the time for his portraits of naval officers, but soon after painting this portrait he was declared insane and died within 5 years.
Lemuel Francis Abbott Horatio, Admiral Nelson, KB 1797 © Compton Verney