As described on a very early label on its reverse, this painting depicts the anchorage off Spithead, England on the morning of September 15, 1805 as Lord Admiral Nelson assumes command of his flagship H.M.S.Victory. As Nelson's flag is raised at the foremast, an armed cutter gets underway astern. Closer inshore, still at anchor, is the 74 gun third rate H.M.S.Eurylaus, Victory's nimble escort under the command of Captain Henry Blackwood.
The following day, Eurylaus and Victory joined up off Plymouth with the seventy-fours Ajax and Thunderer before proceeding to Cadiz and their rendezvous with destiny at the epic Battle of Trafalgar. Although midshipman Thomas Buttersworth was invalided out of the royal navy before the engagement at Trafalgar, his paintings remain as an important record of the naval might of the period.
In this engaging work, the sky radiates soft marine atmosphere as Buttersworth uses the clouds to create expressive linear shadows across the foreground sea. Also note how the pleasing aspect of the small lug-rigged craft in the foreground adds balance and color to the artist's overall composition.
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